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Tour of Georgia - 2.3
Georgia, USA, April 22-27, 2003
Produced by Kristy Scrymgeour and Jeff Jones, with reporting by Tim Maloney
Stage 4 - April 26: Dalton to Gainesville 197km
Welcome to Stage Four of the Tour de Georgia. Today is the "big battle" according to our reporter Tim Maloney. It is by far the toughest stage the riders will see in this tour, lasting 196 kilometers from Dalton to Gainesville and ascending two major climbs. The first climb at Fort Mountain State Park is a 13.3 kilometer incline with an average grade of 6%, but getting as steep as 17% in some sections. This first climb comes after only 44.6 kilometers of racing. This will likely split the bunch up considerably, and the final crunch will come with 55 kilometers remaining in the stage where riders will encounter the second major climb of the day at Woody Gap, a 9.8 kilometer climb, which doesn't appear to be quite as hard on paper, but will likely decide the final selection.
10:30am 197km to go
The riders are all on the start line ready to go, wearing their game faces as they prepare to head into the three neutral laps through the town of Dalton.
10:45am 193km to go
The riders have just completed the three circuits, but not without incident. Dave McKenzie suffered a crash, not how he had hoped to begin the day. He managed to get right back in however as the peloton heads out of town on Martin Luther King Blvd.
10:57am 187km to go
The first break of the day has formed due to the aggressive nature of the race from the gun. The riders in this break are Floyd Landis (US Postal-Berry Floor), Dominique Perras (Flanders-Iteamnova), Phil Zajicek (Saturn), Peter Knudsen (Schroeder Iron), Aaron Olson (Schroeder Iron), Svein Tuft (Prime Alliance), and Dave Wyandt (Webcor). The break currently has 30 seconds on the field right now. Addy Engels (Rabobank) was also in this break, but has decided to drop back to the bunch, maybe to save it for later.
Rabobank riders, who have been sitting pretty quiet thus far, are looking to make their move today. Maloney spoke with Maarten Den Bakker this morning who said "we came here to do something, and we are ready to do it today." Echoing that sentiment could be the US Postal team, which has not been very active as of yet. They may have been waiting for today to show themselves and their climbing talent in Michael Barry and new recruit, mountain bike phenom, Roland Green.
11:11am 177km to go
The time gap for the break has now grown to 1'50". As they ride, they can see the mountains up ahead of them. They are quite heavily wooded and of course not that big since we are in Georgia, but bigger than anything they have seen yet this week
11:15am 167km to go
The break has just contested the first sprint at Chatsworth. Zajicek, who is now the leader on the road, has won the first sprint ahead of Tuft. The bunch is currently 2'00" behind with Navigators setting tempo on the front.
11:20am 165km to go
The climb has started the first major climb of the day immediately following the sprint. Floyd Landis seems to be setting the tempo in the break and is riding a noticeably lower gear than his companions. Navigators are still riding tempo behind, making sure the break doesn't get too far ahead.
The road ascending the climb is a nice, wide open, smooth surface. Right now, the cloud cover is becoming quite heavy, and the threat of rain is ever present. Apparently, it is very foggy at the top of Fort Mountain with little visibility.
Due to the race heading into the mountains and less than reliable cellular services, we may experience infrequent updates.
The 7UP -Maxxis team is aiming for a result today. They have been keeping John Lieswyn very quiet over the last few days with the hopes of putting him on the podium today. Tim Maloney talked with Lieswyn before today's stage who looked very determined. "I have been keeping a very low profile over the last few days and resting my legs as much as possible. I have my teammate Chris Pic out there to help me. He knows these hills like the back of his hand as we actually ride very close to his home town of Dahlonega today. This is going to be handy for us."
12:03am 153km to go
There are now 6 guys in a break with a gap of 2'30" as they approach the top of the climb. Still no word on who these riders are.
12:16pm 128km to go
The break of six, which is the same break that was away before the mountain is now without Patrick Heany, who was the Webcor rider in the initial break. He was dropped on the first KOM. The climb wasn't as hard as expected and Landis set a strong pace all the way up. Zajicek also looked very strong just sitting in eating his marshmallow fluffs.
The descent was narrow and steep where Floyd also set a blistering pace.
The riders just completed the second sprint of the day at Ellijay. Just before the sprint, Tuft slid out with a flat tire and received a slow wheel change, but is now back with the break. The sprint was won by Zajicek, who continues to be the leader on road. This lead group now has 3'30" on the peloton. Navigators are still riding tempo at the front of the peloton.
12:30pm 125km to go
The break is holding a steady gap of 3'30". Floyd is doing a lot of the work at the front. Zajicek looks strong as does Olson. The group slowed a bit and waited for Tuft to rejoin them after his mishap as he is a real powerhouse rider and need him to help drive this break.
The situation is a good scenario for Saturn as it puts the pressure back on Navigators to chase. Vogels is still sitting comfortable in the peloton, however. With 125k to go there is still plenty of time. Right now, it's Navigators who are trying to keep the race under control from behind as they are the ones with the yellow jersey, but later, they will be looking for help from other teams who don't have riders up the road to pull the break back if they can not do it themselves.
The riders now have about 60km until the next KOM which is at Woody Gap. This is steeper on average but it is up and down and allows for rest between the steep parts. There is no doubt though that the riders are going to feel this climb much more than the last.
You may be wondering what we were talking about earlier with the mention of Phil Zajicek and his marshmallow fluffs. It was an observation by our reporter, Tim Maloney as he watched the Saturn Team getting ready for the race this morning. He noted that the Saturn Soigneur's were preparing little rolls filled with jam and cream cheese for most of the team, but not for Zajicek's. His race food of preference are marshmallow fluffs. Well, they seem to be doing their job out there today.
12:58pm 100km to go
We have received an update from Robin Morton of Threshold Sports, the organisers of the Tour de Georgia and a self proclaimed cyclingnews.com enthusiast. She is driving one of the cars in the convoy today. The gap has come down a little to 2'10" as Navigator's up their chase efforts.
Once again, the riders in the break are Floyd Landis (US Postal-Berry Floor), Dominique Perras (Flanders-Iteamnova), Phil Zajicek (Saturn), Peter Knudsen (Schroeder Iron), Aaron Olson (Schroeder Iron), and Svein Tuft (Prime Alliance).
1:20pm 85km to go
The break remains away as we are approximately 25 km from the base of the day's second major climb and KOM at Woody Gap. The six riders up front continue to keep their distance from the main bunch, however the time gap is steadily decreasing. It is likely that this break is going to get caught before or on the climb, in which case the six guys in the break will have done their job allowing their climbers back in the bunch to rest comfortably and save their legs for the final climb.
As the race approaches this next climb, the climbers in the bunch such as Danielson and Horner, Barry and Green, Jurgen Landrie (Flanders - Iteamnova), Jonathan Vaughters (Prime Alliance), Lieswyn to name a few will be stretching their legs getting ready to do some damage. Chris Wherry, who is also an excellent climber, winning last year's Saturn Cycling Classic from Boulder to Breckenridge, will not be amongst them as he abandoned the race yesterday.
It must be said however, that after the climb there are 60, mostly downhill kilometers to go until the end of the race. A break that forms on the climb will have to have a substantial gap to hold off chasers.
2:14pm 56km to go
The riders have just crested the top of the Woody Gap climb. The break of six was absorbed at the base of the climb as the result of a Saturn chase. It was immediately countered as the climb began and a group of seven formed which remains 1'00" in front of the second group as the riders descend. This group consists of three Saturn riders, Danielson, Horner, and Nathan O'Neill, Barry and Green from US Postal-Berry Floor, yesterday's winner, Fred Rodriguez (Vini Caldirola-Sidermec), and Australian Allan Iacuone (Flanders-Iteamnova).
There is a wide open descent and Navigators, having stayed with Vogels, will no doubt be chasing like mad to bring this break back. It is not yet known where the yellow jersey is on the road.
2:26pm 50k to go
The break now has 45" on a chasing group of 12 riders. Perhaps Vogels is in this chasing group. The race is heading into the town of Dohlonega, hometown of Chris Pic. This is where his job comes into play, perhaps towing Lieswyn back into the action up front.
2:31pm 48k to go
The break is losing time, now only 30" ahead, and the field has regrouped on the descent. It is only a matter of time until the break is caught and the group is altogether.
2:38pm 40k to go
The break has gained a little bit of time on the first chase group and now holds a 45" advantage over them as they ride through a Dohlonega that is jam packed with local fans. There now appears to be two organized chase groups behind the break. The second chase group is at about 2'00" and contains the maillot jaune, Henk Vogels.
2:45pm 37k to go
A correction to the break, Dave Zabriskie (US Postal-Berry Floor) is also present along with teammates Barry and Green. Saturn and US Postal are equally represented with three riders each. At the moment it looks like O'Neill is hammering away at the front in his typical motorcycle style. Behind in the first chasing group are about 50 guys. At this stage, it does not seem like Navigators are able to contain the break. This could be the decisive move of the day. The gap remains at 45".
Greetings to our readers in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, who have emailed us saying they'd love to watch the Tour of Georgia in person, but have to be content with following it on Cyclingnews.
2:53pm 30km to go
The break has now increased its gap. They now have 50 seconds on on the chasers and are looking really strong.
2:59pm 20km to go
The time gap for the leaders is now 1'15" to the first chase group and 4'00" ahead of the group that contains race leader Vogels. They way they are going, the break could finish 2'00" ahead. Without the added calculation of possible bonus seconds at the finish, Horner would take over the yellow jersey. Green and Zabriskie, who are currently 18 and 19 seconds down on GC respectively will no doubt be trying to get away before the finish.
3:10pm 10km to go
The leaders are now at 1'10" and holding. Saturn is looking very strong as is Barry. This is a great ride for US Postal, probably the best ride in the US they have had in quite some time. They are not going to be able to play around too much as they have to keep the pace up.
3:13pm 5km to go
Vogels' group is now 6'15" behind the lead group. It looks like this lead group has done some serious damage and will not get caught.
3:15pm 4km to go
Barry has attacked strongly taking Rodriguez with him. They've got a good gap, but it looks like Saturn is closing it down pretty quickly.
3:18pm 3km to go
Saturn has chased it down, there is now a counter attack by Green, which is covered by O'Neill, who seems to be the worker for the day.
3:20pm 2km to go
Postal is persistent in attacking, but to no avail, all moves are being well covered by Saturn.
3:22pm 1km to go
It looks as though it is coming down to a sprint. Rodriguez is sitting in good position, Saturn is putting its train together. They are approaching 500m to go...and here is the sprint for the line..
Rodriguez has taken his second win in as many days ahead of Horner and Iacuone!
Unofficial 1 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Caldirola-Sidermec 2 Chris Horner (USA) Saturn 3 Alan Iacuone (Aus) Flanders-iTeamNova General classification after stage 4 1 Chris Horner (USA) Saturn 2 Nathan O'Neill (Aus) Saturn
Cyclingnews talked with Rodriguez after the race who said "I am ecstatic with this win, especially now that it is two wins in a row. These are big victories for me, coming back from Europe to race in the US. My injury was bothering me when I was in the break. I wasn't soft pedaling, but I was pedaling with one leg"
Rodriguez now moves up significantly on GC and will sit at about 24 seconds down which makes the 20 second time penalty he received in stage 2 even more haunting.