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Tour de Georgia - 2.1

USA, April 19-24, 2005

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Stage 4 - April 22: Dalton to Dahlonega, 214.7km

Commentary by Kristy Scrymgeour, with additional reporting from Mark Zalewski and Eddie Monnier

Complete live report

10:25 EDT   
Welcome to our slightly delayed (due to technical problems) coverage of the fourth stage of the Dodge Tour de Georgia. Today's stage is the longest of the tour, measuring 214 km/134 miles, and takes us from Dalton to Dahlonega. En route, there are five king of the mountain climbs to tackle: Cat. 2 Fort Mt (km 38), Cat. 3 Woody Gap (km 136.8), Cat. 2 Neel's Gap (km 166), Cat. 2 Wolfpen Gap (km 177) and Woody Gap again at km 192. There are also two intermediate sprints at km 23 and km 62.

It's definitely a tough stage, and race leader Floyd Landis and his Phonak team will have their work cut out to defend his jersey, especially after losing teammate Jose Enrique Gutierrez to knee/tendon problems overnight.

10:34 EDT    16km/198.7km to go
Today's stage started in cool, overcast conditions, but unlike yesterday, no rain...yet. The forecast is for "intermediate thunderstorms", so that should make things fun later on.

The first sprint at Chatsworth (km 22) carries a $1500 bonus for the first rider across the line. At the moment, the Health Net team is leading the peloton at a steady 40 km/h pace. It's fairly flat as we wind through the outskirts of Dalton.

10:39 EDT    18km/196.7km to go
We've had a fairly steady start to the day, Health Net have been leading the way through the twisty, windy roads out of Dalton. We are now taking a right turn into a wide open road with only 4 km to go before the first sprint of the day. The first sprint also holds a $1500 cash bonus.

10:40 EDT   
A big Happy birthday to Robbie Hunter, the winner of stage one. The stage win being a nice early birthday present for him.

10:41 EDT    21km/193.7km to go
One kilomter to the sprint. No attacks or movement from the bunch, Health Net leading the way. A fairly straight forward sprint, slightly downhill. After the sprint the road continues to go downhill.

10:41 EDT   
The speed is picking up now leading into the sprint.

10:46 EDT    22km/192.7km to go
The sprint is in the town of Chatsworth. About eight or nine riders are contesting the sprint. The birthday boy is up there!....... but its Juan Jose Haedo (Colavita) taking the sprint.

10:48 EDT   
Taking second in the sprint was Greg Henderson (Health Net), followed by Robbie Hunter.

The counter attacks are coming now. First one is Dominique Perras (Kodak Gallery/Sierra Nevada). He has opened up quite a gap very quickly.

10:50 EDT   
The road is starting to go up now for the first climb of the day. Its a tough one up Fort Mountain, climbing 876m (2875ft) in 11km (7miles). Its a category two climb and could definitely split things up if attacked.

10:52 EDT   
If the pace is hard up this climb, dropped riders will be in danger of not making the time cut at the end of the day as at the top of the climb, we still have a long way to go.

10:52 EDT   
Perras has been reeled in and Jose Rubiera (Discovery) is off the front now as they head up the climb.

10:55 EDT   
Rubiera is joined by Marco Pinotti (Saunier Duval) and Andy Schleck (CSC). Matthias Russ (Gerolsteiner) is trying to bridge the gap.

10:58 EDT   
The break is now four and they have 20 seconds on the field. The climb has been steep and windy and is coming up to a slightly flatter section.

11:08 EDT   
Rubiera is pushing the pace of this break, obviously the big plan from Discovery to make Phonak work hard today. The gap is now 35 seconds.

11:12 EDT    35km/179.7km to go
Rubiera still forcing the pace on the front of the break of four, who have 30 seconds now. Health Net have been on the front of the bunch and now Jason McCartney, the winner of the stage last year, has attacked the bunch in chase of the leaders.

11:14 EDT   
The gap from the leading four to McCartney is 22 seconds, with the bunch another eight seconds back. The climb is a tough one at the top as it is more rolling hills, up and down until the top. Three kilometers until the summit now, which holds another $1500 bonus for the first across the line.

11:19 EDT    28km/186.7km to go
The have reached the King of the Mountain sprint now and Rubiera took the sprint. McCartney has been reabsorbed by the bunch and another riders has gone off the front in pursuit of the leaders. It is Elia Aggiano (LPR) and he is chasing down the descent.

11:24 EDT   
The break has increased in number as they descend Fort Mountain. Aggiano made it up to the break and Sven Krauss (Gerolsteiner) has also joined the leaders. The descent is windy,lots of turns. They are traveling down the hill at 42 miles/hour. They gap is still 35 seconds.

11:34 EDT   
The climb really split up the peloton. It is now in three main groups chasing the break which is now six riders.

11:35 EDT   
There are also riders dropped off the back altogether who will have to try and get together and form a group. Riding alone to the finish from here will make it almost impossible to make the time cut off.

Phonak have moved to the front of the front chase group now and have four guys setting pace.

11:37 EDT    54km/160.7km to go
The gap is now over one minute.

11:41 EDT    54km/160.7km to go
The rain has started!.....along with some thunder and lightening.

11:42 EDT   
The break now has 1'15" on the field and they are approaching the second Maxxis sprint of the day which is in the town of Alijay.

11:44 EDT   
Three km to go till the sprint. The rain seems to have stopped at the sprint line and the road is dry. THe sprint is a windy sprint. There is a dip down at the one kilomter work followed by a sweeping right. At 500m to go it dipped down into town. It doesn't look like it has rained here at all. With 200m to go there is a hard turn, then a round about and then a 150m to the line. Its pretty crazy. Probably a good thing that there is a breakaway group.

11:47 EDT   
Just to recap, the six riders in the break are Rubiera (Discovery), Marco Pinotti (Saunier Duval), Andy Schleck (CSC), Matthias Russ (Gerolsteiner), Elia Aggiano (LPR) and Marco Pinotti (LPR).

11:59 EDT    67km/147.7km to go
The sprint was taken by Krauss, followed by Schleck and Pinotti and the break is passing through the feed zone. The gap seems to be coming down a little now and sits at 1'05". This is the first feed zone of this long stage.

12:01 EDT   
A few riders have abandoned the race after getting dropped on the climb. They are Ivan Dominguez, Rafael Casero Moreno (Saunier Duval), Evan Elken (Jittery Joe's), and John Murphy of the US National Team.

12:02 EDT   
Pinotti has been dropped from the break and is sitting up to wait for the field. Phonak still setting the pace on the front of the field.

12:10 EDT   
Following the feed zone, the time gap from the peloton to the break has shot up to two minutes. The guys in the break seem to be working well together now as we gradually climb now until we hit the next KOM sprint which is at Woody Gap. The race goes up Woody Gap twice in this race. The first time at 136km and then it does a loop, taking in Neel's Gap and Wolfpen Gap before hitting Woody Gap again at the 192km mark.

12:12 EDT   
The top ten is General Classification after yesterdays time trial are:
1 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 11.14.19
2 David Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC 0.19
3 Christopher Baldwin (USA) Navigators Insurance 0.22
4 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC 0.28
5 Nathan O'Neill (Aus) Navigators Insurance 0.43
6 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 0.50
7 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel 1.00
8 Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus) Discovery Channel 1.21
9 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 1.42
10 Brian Vandborg (Den) Team CSC 1.47

12:14 EDT   
We hear that a couple of TIAA Cref riders pulled out of the race in the feed zone. It was certainly a tough start to the day.

12:15 EDT   
There is still some intermittent rain and the clouds still loom overhead.

12:19 EDT    80km/134.7km to go
This is the part of the course where its gradually uphill. There is not categorized climbs here but its just up and down (mostly up!) and it hurts. The break are still working well together. At this point they are climbing at about 15miles/h, and picking up to 20m/h as the road flattens out a little. Their lead has increased to 2'50".

12:20 EDT   
The team cars of the riders in the break are moving up every now and again to talk to their riders. Discovery has been up there to have a chat with Rubiera adn now the Gerolsteiner car is moving up.

12:23 EDT   
The rain is really coming down now and doesn't look like its going to let up. According to a few readers writing in, the weather report is not in the riders favour. It's going to be one of those days.

12:28 EDT    88km/126.7km to go
The break still working together quite well as they tackle this steady rolling climbs. The gap stands at 2'50".

12:38 EDT   
The rain is really strong now and the lightning is getting worse. The caravan have been instructed to turn their headlights on. The gap is now at 2'30" and the break is now on a little descent.

12:39 EDT   
The Tyler Hamilton fans are out on the sign of the road. The riders have just gone past a sign that says "Free Tyler."

12:59 EDT   
Excuse the delay. Things have gone from bad to worse out on the course. The rain is really bad now and riders can hardly see in front of them. All media cars and unneccesary cars have been sent up the road out of the way.

13:04 EDT   
There is more lightening now and the wind is really blowing and there is even hail coming down now.

13:08 EDT    112km/102.7km to go
Seventy miles into the race now and the break is still away and have a gap of 1'35". Back in the peloton Phonak are still setting a steady pace and there looks to be about 60 riders left in this main group.

13:10 EDT   
It won't be long now before the race reaches Woody Gap for the first time. Today though, it won't be the climb that is the worry so much, but the descent which has some nasty turns and will be dangerous in the rain.

13:13 EDT   
The storm has lowered the weather dramatically. The hail is getting bigger!

13:21 EDT    120km/94.7km to go
The gap is now 1'30" and Phonak are on the front as they race approach Woody Gap. They haven't started climbing yet, but it will start very soon.

13:22 EDT   
Back in the peloton Lance Armstrong has gone back to his team car twice in the last five minutes. He's most likely making sure he has enough food for the climb.

13:23 EDT   
According to weather reports, it will rain hard for another ten minutes or so and then hopefully calm down a little. Who believes those things?? But hopefully they are correct this time.

13:24 EDT   
Only a few weeks ago there was snow on Wolfpen Gap. At least we don't have that today, but hail is not much better I would say!

13:26 EDT   
It is very unlikely for a bike race to be called off, even in this bad weather.

13:29 EDT    125km/89.7km to go
Rubiera has just attacked at the beginning of Woody Gap and has gapped the other riders in the break!!!!

13:33 EDT   
Rubiera, Schleck and Rich are the leaders now and are pulling away from the rest of the riders in the break. Aggiano has been dropped and falling back quickly.

13:34 EDT   
The rain has now stopped but its still dark overhead and the roads are still wet and will be treacherous on the descent.

13:35 EDT   
Rubiera is really pushing the pace hard here!

13:37 EDT   
When they get to the top of this climb they have a long, windy, steep descent and then immediately start climbing Neel's Gap. This is really going to hurt the legs, especially because its cold and their legs are going to get all stiff going doing the descent.

13:39 EDT   
The main GC riders are all still in the bunch. Floyd looks comfortable (as much as he can be in this weather) and is being well looked after by his team.

13:42 EDT   
Rubiera still leads the front group of three riders and they have a lead of about 1'40" to the peloton. They are climbing Woody Gap and there are still some really good crowds on the Mountain, despite the weather.

13:46 EDT    136km/78.7km to go
The leaders are going over Woody Gap now and putting on their jackets for the descent. They will have to be cautious here as the roads are still wet. Their lead still stands at around 1'40".

13:47 EDT   
In ten kilomters they'll reach the bottom of the descent before going over some rolling climbs and hitting Neel's Gap. Ouch!

13:49 EDT   
One reader just wrote in to ask if Floyd is a good climber. We have all seen how he helped Lance in the mountains at last years Tour de France. Now that he is a leader of the team and getting looked after by his teammates, who knows what he can do. He certainly showed yesterday that he has great form.

13:54 EDT   
The KOM sprint wasn't contested but Rubiera took the points, crossing the line first. The three leaders are working well together on the decent. When they reach the bottom in a few moments they will meet up with the second feed zone of the day.

13:57 EDT   
You might notice that I just made a correction to the names of the three riders in the break. It is Rubiera (Discovery), Andy Schleck (CSC), Sven Krauss(Gerolsteiner). Elia Aggiano (LPR) is still in the middle and Rich has been caught by the peloton.

13:59 EDT   
Phonak are still setting the pace at the front. They are just setting a nice even tempo. Rubiera is doing a great job out there for Discovery.

14:00 EDT   
Its still cool and overcast but the rain has stopped. There is some light rain in Dahlonega at the finish, but things are looking up. If the riders can get warm now it will be a bonus. It is definitely warmer at the bottom of the hill but of course they they have to climb up again.

14:05 EDT   
The break now has 2'50" to the peloton as they head towards Neel's Gap.

We heard that Tim Johnson (Jittery Joe's) was the first rider in the peloton to reach the KOM. He then proceeded to attack down the hill but was reeled back in by the steady pace setting of the Phonak team.

14:15 EDT   
The gap is increasing. It is now Rubiera is leading all the way. The others are letting him do all the work. They are nearing the top of Neel's Gap now.

14:18 EDT   
According to one reader the around Dahlonega is sometimes referred to as Georgia's "tornado alley." After the caravan descends off Woody Gap the second time and turns south toward Dahlonega, it will pass through some areas which look as if they have been haphazardly cleared of trees... not by the hand of man, but by Mother Nature herself.

14:22 EDT    161km/53.7km to go
The leaders are 4km from the top of Neel's Gap right now and the gap has come down slightly. It is now 2'55 and Rubiera is still being forced to do all the work. He is out of the saddle pounding away. There is not really a crowd on this climb, they will all still be gathered on Woody Gap, when we reach there the next time.

14:23 EDT   
We can see the organisers of the Tour of California out on the course, as well as some representatives from the California Police. They'd be checking out how things run here and how the cops do their job keeping the roads safe.

14:26 EDT   
Here we go! We have a break out of the peloton. Jason McCartney (Discovery) attacked taking Michael Blaudzin (CSC), Saul Raisin (Credit Agricole) with him. Two riders, Christian Vande Velde (CSC) and Jose Azvedo (Discovery) have brided up to them and the group of five have a 200m gap on the bunch at this point.

14:30 EDT    165km/49.7km to go
The leaders are 1km to go from the top of the climb, Rubiera still on the front. The chasing five are 2'23" behind with the peloton just 10" behind.

14:31 EDT   
Phonak don't have anyone in that break, they'll be using their men to set the chase pace.

14:33 EDT   
200m from the KOM. It's Rubiera in front followed by Krauss and Schleck. It is colder at the top. The riders will put their jackets on again to keep warm on the descent. But after this short descent they have to climb immediately up Wolfpen Gap.

14:34 EDT    165.8km/48.9km to go
Just over the top now. The sprint wasn't contested. Schleck and Krauss are letting Rubiera take the points, which is simply etiquette because he is doing all the work out there. He is currently the leader on the road. The virtual yellow jersey.

14:43 EDT   
I better make a correction on the town I talked about before. It was Elijay, not Alijay that the riders went through. A lot of readers not happy with my spello! Sorry

14:45 EDT   
The gap is coming down slightly as we near the business end of the race. Just under two minutes at this point.

14:49 EDT    176km/38.7km to go
Rubiera has attacked again and is heading to the KOM alone. He is only 500m to the top now. This is the highest point of the race now at 994m (3260ft).

14:51 EDT   
Behind, Schleck and Krauss are together and behind them there is also the chase group that broke away before. Levi Leipheimer has also attacked out of the field in an attempt to bridge. This is a vital time of the race, as when they hit the top, there is only one more climb to go before the big descent into Dahlonega.

14:52 EDT   
Some unfortunate news for Mark Walters (Navigators). He crashed on the Woody Gap descent and has been taken to hospital.

14:55 EDT   
We spoke to Leipheimer before the race who had no idea of what was in store for him today, not having seen the course. He said he put a 25 cog on just to make sure he was covered on the climbs.

14:56 EDT   
With the gap slowly falling, we can expect counter attacks from Discovery who have been able to sit on back in the chasing groups as Rubiera has been doing such a good job of keeping his small group of three away.

14:58 EDT   
Andy Schleck has just been dropped. Its Rubiera alone and then Krauss alone.

14:59 EDT    180km/34.7km to go
At the bottom of the descent is a narrow bridge.

15:08 EDT    183km/31.7km to go
Rubiera still leads but his gap is dropping. Behind him is Krauss and Schleck is being caught by the chase group. In the chase group is Jason McCartney (Discovery), as well as Michael Blaudzin (CSC), Saul Raisin (Credit Agricole) with him. Two riders, Christian Vande Velde (CSC) and Jose Azvedo (Discovery). Leipheimer is also in the middle of things. The peloton, still led by Floyd's boys with one climb to go.

15:13 EDT   
The last climb of the day up Woody Gap is not as long as the first time they climbed it, because we are already pretty high but it will be a vital time in the race as its all downhill from the top. Whoever has the lead going over the top has a huge advantage.

15:19 EDT    194km/20.7km to go
Its getting exciting now. Rubiera still leads with Krauss. There is a group of 23 riders at 50 seconds including all the GC riders. Lance is there, Julich, Floyd.

15:19 EDT   
Floyd is alone in the group with no teammates. Lance has Danielson, Azvedo and McCartney. Julich has Schleck up the road and Zabriskie.

15:22 EDT   
Only a couple of kilomters to the top of the last climb, Woody Gap and its all down hill. Discovery are going to be attacking up here to make Floyd do some work, as he has no teammates to do it for him anymore. They have been working hard for him all day.

15:23 EDT   
Discovery has certainly taken the race into their hands, being aggressive and using their strong climbing team to try to take control back from Phonak.

15:25 EDT    196km/18.7km to go
Krauss was attacking Rubiera on the KOM, but on the descent the leading pair were caught and its a group of 26 riders heading for the finish.

15:26 EDT   
Less than 20 kilomters to go and its all downhill except for a short rise into Dahlonega.

15:30 EDT   
The finish comes into town up a steep hill topping out at the 1km to mark before making a turn dropping around town and then a kind of an uphill finish. Dahlonega is a quaint little country town with a town square in the middle.

15:35 EDT   
When they finish the descente, they have some small rolling hills coming into town. The crowds are huge again. From the 2km to go mark all the way to the finish, people are lining the roads. Last year of course, McCartney came in solo to take the win and it was Italian Salvatore Commesso (Saeco-Saunier Duval) who took the bunch sprint from Charles Dionne. Last year the leading group coming into town was about ten riders larger than todays group.

15:37 EDT    214km/4km to go
Ten kilometers to go now and Lars Bak (CSC) has attacked out of the group and has a small gap.

15:39 EDT   
Bak has been reeled in and its all together again with all the major hitters in the group. Under five km to go now.....Another attack

15:40 EDT    212.7km/2km to go
The yellow jersey has lost contact with the group. Attacks are coming left right and center. Pinotti has attacked!

15:41 EDT   
Two chasers at the 1km mark, Ekimov, Brian Vandborg (CSC).

15:41 EDT   
Going through the town square now, less than a km to go.

15:43 EDT   
Vandborg is in the lead now as they come down the finish straight. It looks like he's going to hold it. Ekimov just behind him!

15:43 EDT   
Vandborg takes the win, followed by Ekimov.

15:44 EDT   
Pinotti comes in a few meters back to take third place and McCartney not far behind him.

15:44 EDT   
Following McCartney is the bunch.

15:48 EDT   
Floyd did actually get back onto the bunch and finished well. He will keep the leaders jersey going into the penultimate stage.

16:03 EDT   
Unofficially, Lance came in 7th today.

Brief preliminary results

1 Brian Vandborg (Den) CSC
2 Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus) Discovery
3 Marco Pinotti (Ita) Saunier Duval
4 Jason McCartney (USA) Discovery
5 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC 
6 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Team LPR 
7 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery
8 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak
9 Sven Krauss (Ger) Gerolsteiner
10 Daniele Contrini (Ita) Team LPR

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