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Tour de Georgia - 2.1

USA, April 19-24, 2005

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Stage 1 - April 19: Augusta - Macon, 207.4km

Robbie Hunter (Phonak)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
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Phonak heard loud and clear in Georgia

Robbie Hunter takes stage one sprint after 90 mile Bowman break

By Mark Zalewski in Macon, Georgia

The 2005 Dodge Tour de Georgia got off to a quiet start in Augusta this morning, rolling out of town at a leisurely pace. Thankfully, Dan Bowman of Team TIAA-CREF decided to turn up the volume -- to the tune of a ninety mile solo breakaway. And even though the young American didn't survive all the way to the finish, Robbie Hunter (Phonak Hearing Systems) took over in the final sprint and made sure the stage finished with a bang!

The strong sprinter from South Africa navigated his way around the tough finishing circuits to do what he does best. "I was on the wheel of one of the Gerolsteiner guys, and in the final corner I was on the wheel of Elia Aggiano, who was trying to pull the sprint for his guys," explained Hunter. "It was really hard -- the circuit was really hard. The small cobbled climb really put the guys to the limit. A lot of guys lost it there, and in the last kilometers there was a bit of chaos, no one really pulled the sprint back. Just positioning really helped in the last two corners."

Hunter had a little heads up from a few riders who raced last year, giving him a leg up on his fellow European competitors. "We spoke to a couple of guys who told us before the start, that it wasn't a cobbled climb but more bricks -- a little bit easier to ride than the usual cobbled roads, so I fought to get up there. The decent was just hard because everyone was on the limit, but it didn't play as much of a factor because it was fast and nobody can come around on the decent."

The pace was slow
Photo ©: Jon Devich
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Hunter was followed closely to the line by Ben Brooks (Jelly Belly/Pool Gel) and Italians Michele Maccanti and Danilo Napolitano, both of the Switzerland-based Team L.P.R. "I knew the circuit from last year, and it's kinda tough with that cobbled climb," said Brooks. "But once you get out of that, it's only a kilometer and a half until the finish. I knew it was all about position after that and then I ended up getting second."

Even though Hunter was the stage winner, and now holds the overall lead, it was a 23-year old Fort Lewis College student who commanded the most attention today. Dan Bowman of Team TIAA-CREF rode away from the field at just the ninth mile, and led the race for the next ninety. "We're all young guys, and we're not really in the hunt for the overall because we aren't going to actually beat Lance Armstrong, so it's the best way we can get recognized," Bowman said.

Team Director Jonathan Vaughters echoed his rider's comments, saying that this is the modus operandi for the team, especially this week. "The guys are young -- they don't have anything to lose. They need to start putting their names in front of the ProTour teams and say, 'Hey, this is who I am!' And there is no better way to do it. You can't always win a mountain stage but you can always try to get out front, get your nose in the wind and get your name known."

Lance Armstrong (Discovery)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
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Bowman explained that his strategy was to keep a consistent lead that wasn't too big to make the peloton nervous. "I was trying to get it up to ten minutes and keep it up around there -- if it would go over that it seemed [the peloton] would pick it up a bit and if it was like eight I would pick it up. Jonathan was telling me to conserve -- and that was usually on the down-hills, and I would try to give it more gas on the up-hills." But after ninety-plus miles solo in the saddle, the peloton shut down any delusions of grandeur of a stage win evaporated. When asked what kept him going for all those miles, Bowman replied, "Just telling me I could win the stage was a big enough carrot!"

How it unfolded

A bright sunny day accompanied the riders on their rolling-ride from Augusta to last year's start city of Macon. After three neutral parade laps, the riders continued on their leisurely ride out into the countryside. A few riders gave a little effort in the first kilometers, including a few kilometer solo effort by Andrea Tafi (Saunier Duval-Prodir). This short burst was eventually reeled in by the peloton, who were wise enough to know better than to let the veteran European get away.

Dan Bowman (TIAA-CREF)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
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A result of this was a counter-effort by Bowman, who got a little more than he bargained for when the peloton decided to let the young neo-pro see what a solo breakaway in a UCI 2.1 level race feels like. What started as a small gap quickly grew to two, three and four minutes, along the constant rolling terrain. "Once the gap got up to two minutes I said, 'OK Dan, you're in for a long day!' explained Vaughters. "I said, 'Don't let the gap go above ten minutes if you can, because that makes the field nervous and they start to chase.'"

Bowman stuck to the plan and grew his lead to eight minutes through the first intermediate sprint. Behind him, the peloton looked more like a touring group, with some of the Gerolsteiner riders hanging off the back to get a better look at the sights.

As the pack approached the first sprint, the sprinters finally awoke, with Health Net the most interested. 2004 sprint champion Gord Fraser crossed the line to take three points, followed by Brice Jones (Jelly Belly/Pool Gel). However, Fraser has been experiencing some stomach problems, which began in Redlands. The Canadian champion discussed the situation with his team and decided that teammate Greg Henderson had the better legs. The kiwi sprinter took the next sprint behind Bowman, who had managed to increase his lead to ten minutes.

Another small flurry of attacks came after the mid-race feed zone, instigated by Navigators, L.P.R. and Credit Agricole among others, but all the breaks became heavy with too many riders.

Bowman's top lead was momentarily thirteen minutes, but as Vaughters predicted, the peloton began to take notice. At that last [intermediate] sprint I had ten minutes still, so Jonathan started saying, 'Yeah you can win this race! Just give it a good dig! Keep it going!' But you know, it was still a long way to go."

A long way indeed, and when Marco Pinotti (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and Ivan Fanelli (L.P.R.) finally escaped from the pack, Bowman's lead quickly dissipated. The pair of chasers chased down the tiring Bowman and grew their lead at almost equal intervals. They reached and immediately passed the solo rider at the bottom of a small incline, which must have seemed like Brasstown Bald to him at the moment. "They were just going so much faster than me -- I tried to get on but I was pretty worked."

Riders stream past
Photo ©: Jon Devich
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The two held on to their lead for a while, but the sprinter's were not about to be upstaged. Strong efforts by Health Net, led by John Lieswyn, helped bring the time down. Outside the city limits of Macon, Discovery and Colavita joined the efforts, while Pinotti left his break companion behind for another few kilometers.

Soon the peloton regained the final escapee and headed for downtown Macon. Three finishing circuits with two climbs and some brick pavers awaited all 121 riders. As the pack hit the first climb the field began to streamline, with slower riders falling off the pace.

A few solo attempts lasted mere moments, with the pack now at full-speed. After crossing the finish line for the first lap, three riders, Michael Blaudzin (CSC), Elia Aggiano (LPR) and Matt Rice (Jelly Belly/Pool Gel), managed a ten second gap.

After catching this effort on the second lap, two riders broke away again -- Andy Schleck (CSC) and Danny Pate (Jelly Belly/Pool Gel.) The two only managed a small gap, but when Schleck crossed the finish with his hands in the air with one to go, it was obvious why they were able to get their lead.

Robbie Hunter (Phonak)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
Click for larger image

Coming around the final turns, the field was completely strung-out. With only minimal organization, riders began to peel-off in the final straightaway. "I was on the wheel of one of the Gerolsteiner guys, and in the final corner I was on the wheel of Elia Aggiano, who was trying to pull the sprint for his guys," explained Hunter. Hunter was able to come around the Italian and charged for the line first. Brooks did his best to close the gap, but ran out of room too soon.

Returning champion Lance Armstrong was tucked safely in the pack all day, as were all of the other GC favorites. When asked about the finishing circuits, Armstrong replied, "The circuits were safer than last year -- not as fast as I remember."


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Jonathan Devich/epicimages.us


1 Robert Hunter (RSA) Phonak Hearing Systems                5.47.52
2 Benjamin Brooks (Aus) Jelly Belly - Pool Gel                     
3 Michele Maccanti (Ita) Team L.P.R.                               
4 Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Team L.P.R.                              
5 Gregory Henderson (NZl) Health Net pb Maxxis                     
6 David Canada Gracia (Spa) Prodir - Saunier Duval                 
7 Caleb Manion (Aus) Jelly Belly - Pool Gel                        
8 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC                                      
9 Aurélien Clerc (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems                      
10 René Haselbacher (Aut) Gerolsteiner                             
11 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Team L.P.R.                            
12 Geoff Kabush (Can) Jittery Joe's - Kalahari                     
13 Christopher Baldwin (USA) Navigators Insurance                  
14 Glen Mitchell (NZl) Kodak Gallery - Sierra Nevada               
15 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel                         
16 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems                       
17 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner                              
18 Kirk Albers (USA) Jelly Belly - Pool Gel                        
19 Mark Walters (Can) Navigators Insurance                         
20 Elia Aggiano (Ita) Team L.P.R.                                  
21 Daniele Contrini (Ita) Team L.P.R.                              
22 Saul Raisin (USA) Credit Agricole                               
23 José Azevedo (Por) Discovery Channel                            
24 Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus) Discovery Channel                      
25 Michael Blaudzun (Den) Team CSC                                 
26 Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Prodir - Saunier Duval               
27 Cesar Augusto Grajales (Col) Navigators Insurance               
28 Alessandro Maserati (Ita) Team L.P.R.                           
29 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel                           
30 Nicolas Fritsch (Fra) Prodir - Saunier Duval                    
31 Nathan O'Neill (Aus) Navigators Insurance                       
32 Dominique Perras (Can) Kodak Gallery - Sierra Nevada            
33 David Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC                                  
34 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Prodir - Saunier Duval                   
35 Tomasz Nose (Slo) Phonak Hearing Systems                        
36 Danny Pate (USA) Jelly Belly - Pool Gel                         
37 José Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) Discovery Channel                 
38 Michael Barry (Can) Discovery Channel                           
39 Chris Wherry (USA) Health Net pb Maxxis                         
40 Matthew Rice (Aus) Jelly Belly - Pool Gel                       
41 Jose Enrique Gutierrez Cataluna (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems    
42 Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra) Credit Agricole                         
43 William Frischkorn (USA) Team TIAA - CREF                       
44 Christian Vandevelde (USA) Team CSC                             
45 Russell Hamby (USA) Kodak Gallery - Sierra Nevada               
46 Eric Wohlberg (Can) Symmetrics                                  
47 Phil Zajicek (USA) Navigators Insurance                         
48 Andrea Tafi (Ita) Prodir - Saunier Duval                        
49 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team CSC                                     
50 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner                                
51 Svein Tuft (Can) Symmetrics                                     
52 Trent Lowe (Aus) Jittery Joe's - Kalahari                       
53 Brian Vandborg (Den) Team CSC                                   
54 Marco Pinotti (Ita) Prodir - Saunier Duval                      
55 Mads Kaggestad (Nor) Credit Agricole                            
56 Timothy Johnson (USA) Jittery Joe's - Kalahari                  
57 Edward King (USA) USA National Team                         0.22
58 Nick Waite (USA) USA National Team                              
59 Scott Zwizanski (USA) Kodak Gallery - Sierra Nevada             
60 Christian Meier (Can) Symmetrics                                
61 Michael Rich (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                 
62 Bruno Langlois (Can) Jittery Joe's - Kalahari                   
63 Mike Sayers (USA) Health Net pb Maxxis                          
64 Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Credit Agricole                             
65 Matthias Russ (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                
66 Antonio Cruz (USA) Discovery Channel                            
67 Timothy Duggan (USA) Team TIAA - CREF                           
68 Jason McCartney (USA) Discovery Channel                         
69 Hayden Godfrey NZ' Kodak Gallery - Sierra Nevada                
70 Portal Sébastien (Fra) Credit Agricole                          
71 Jonathan Sundt (USA) Jittery Joe's - Kalahari                   
72 Gustavo Artacho (Arg) Colavita Olive Oil - Sutter Home          
73 Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) Kodak Gallery - Sierra Nevada          
74 Rafael Casero Moreno (Spa) Prodir - Saunier Duval               
75 Jacob Erker (Can) Symmetrics                                    
76 Brice Jones (USA) Jelly Belly - Pool Gel                        
77 Craig Lewis (USA) Team TIAA - CREF                              
78 Chad Hartley (USA) Team TIAA - CREF                         0.36
79 Jeff Louder (USA) Navigators Insurance                          
80 Andrew Pinfold (Can) Symmetrics                                 
81 Jackson Stewart (USA) Kodak Gallery - Sierra Nevada         0.55
82 Justin England (USA) Health Net pb Maxxis                       
83 John Lieswyn (USA) Health Net pb Maxxis                         
84 John Devine (USA) USA National Team                         1.03
85 Ian Macgregor (USA) Team TIAA - CREF                            
86 Christian Müller (Ger) Team CSC                                 
87 Gordon Fraser (Can) Health Net pb Maxxis                        
88 David O'Loughlin (Irl) Navigators Insurance                     
89 Scott Moninger (USA) Health Net pb Maxxis                       
90 Sascha Urweider (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems                    
91 Vassili Davidenko (Rus) Navigators Insurance                    
92 Ivan Fanelli (Ita) Team L.P.R.                                  
93 Ivan Dominguez (Cub) Health Net pb Maxxis                       
94 Kevin Bouchard-Hall (USA) USA National Team                 1.49
95 John Murphy (USA) USA National Team                             
96 Will Routley (Can) Symmetrics                               2.14
97 Christian Foster (USA) Jittery Joe's - Kalahari                 
98 Michael Lange (USA) Team TIAA - CREF                            
99 Todd Herriot (USA) Colavita Olive Oil - Sutter Home             
100 David Robinson (USA) Team TIAA - CREF                          
101 Niki Aebersold (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems                2.36
102 Sven Krauss (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                 
103 Daniele Masolino (Ita) Team L.P.R.                             
104 Cory Lange (Can) Symmetrics                                    
105 Aaron Olsen (USA) Colavita Olive Oil - Sutter Home             
106 Andy Guptill (USA) USA National Team                       2.46
107 Craig Wilcox (USA) Jittery Joe's - Kalahari                3.11
108 Marsh Cooper (Can) Symmetrics                              3.28
109 Jeremy Powers (USA) Jelly Belly - Pool Gel                     
110 Derek Wilkerson (USA) Colavita Olive Oil - Sutter Home         
111 Kilian Patour (Fra) Credit Agricole                        4.19
112 Dan Bowman (USA) Team TIAA - CREF                          4.36
113 Michael Wolf (USA) USA National Team                           
114 Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Team CSC                                 
115 Davide Frattini (Ita) Colavita Olive Oil - Sutter Home         
116 Juan José Haedo (Arg) Colavita Olive Oil - Sutter Home         
117 Evan Elken (USA) Jittery Joe's - Kalahari                  6.57
118 Steven Cozza (USA) USA National Team                           
119 Mark McCormack (USA) Colavita Olive Oil - Sutter Home      7.38
120 Jonathan Page (USA) Colavita Olive Oil - Sutter Home           
121 Mariano Friedick (USA) Jelly Belly - Pool Gel                  
1 Team L.P.R.                        17.23.36
2 Phonak Hearing Systems                     
3 Jelly Belly - Pool Gel                     
4 Navigators Insurance                       
5 Prodir - Saunier Duval                     
6 Discovery Channel                          
7 Team CSC                                   
8 Gerolsteiner                               
9 Kodak Easyshare Gallery - Sierra Nevada    
10 Credit Agricole                           
11 Jittery Joe's - Kalahari                  
12 Health Net pb Maxxis                  0.22
13 Symmetrics                                
14 Team TIAA - CREF                      0.44
15 USA National Team                     1.47
16 Colavita Olive Oil - Sutter Home      5.12

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