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Tour de Georgia - 2.HC

USA, April 21-27, 2008

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Stage 1 - April 21: Tybee Island - Savannah, 70.4mi/113.3km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Laura Weislo with reporting from Mark Zalewski and Kirsten Robbins in Savannah.

Cyclingnews will be covering the Tour de Georgia live April 21-27 at 11:00 local time (EDT)/ 17:00 (CET)/ 01:00 Australia (EST) - also on WAP-enabled mobile devices at http://live9.cyclingnews.com/wap/

09:50 EDT   
Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Tour de Georgia presented by AT&T will begin at 11:00 local time. The riders will depart from the coastal town of Tybee Island, just east of Savannah, heading to the west through Savannah, out the other side, then doubling back to the finish downtown for a total distance of just over 70 miles. It should be a very fast stage today - the terrain is quite flat and the winds should be light and from the north.

10:18 EDT   
The weather forecast this week will make the Tour of California jealous: it is supposed to be sunny and mild all week long, with highs in the 70's F/20 C. That is San Diego weather! It will be a perfect backdrop for the gorgeous scenery this state has to offer. In Georgia, spring sprung weeks ago, and the leaves are already on the trees and the flowers are in bloom. It will be a nice contrast to the horrid cold, rainy weather the riders had to endure in California in February.

10:48 EDT   
The riders have set out for a long neutral lap of Tybee Island. It's a lovely day, although as we're on the coast it is a tad breezy. It will be a day for the sprinters today, but they'll have to battle a strong cross-wind as they head inland, with the most exposed section being a bridge onto the mainland.

10:51 EDT   
The riders end their neutral and the race is on! The route today is flat, and already the speed is quite high. They're heading off at 28mph - the fastest expected pace on the schedule.

10:53 EDT   
The only things which will slow these riders down today are the many turns along the route. They've got one ten-mile long section on one highway, but are otherwise turning left and right all day long. They've also got a drawbridge to go over which, had it been raining, could have been a bit slippery, but fortunately it's dry and sunny. They've also got some train tracks to traverse - hopefully the gates will stay up!

11:00 EDT    10mi/60.4mi to go
The race is heading toward the bridge to the mainland now at a blistering pace. They'll head down the highway for ten more miles before hitting the drawbridge that takes them onto the mainland.

They've got four sprint bonuses today which should be the only thing that separates the riders on GC. The first sprint comes as they pass through Savannah the first time at mile 22. Then they head out, hit a sprint at mile 32.8, do a loop, head back through that same line at mile 59.5 and then the final sprint at the finish in Savannah at mile 70.4.

11:02 EDT    11.5mi/58.9mi to go
The riders take the opportunity for a quick nature break - there won't be much rest after they cross over the bridge. It will be almost like a criterium with all the turns.

11:05 EDT    13.5mi/56.9mi to go
The riders have a slight headwind at the moment, and the Bissell team puts in the first attack.

11:06 EDT   
It's Tom Zirbel (Bissell Pro Cycling) on the attack - this is our solo breakaway artist who put on quite a show on the final stage of the Tour of California. He's definitely got the power to pull a move like this off. The sprinters teams would be wise to start chasing.

11:08 EDT   
The other teams have sensed the urgency and five riders tried to bridge across to Zirbel. However, they only succeeded in stringing the bunch along, picking the pace up to 30mph and pulling Zirbel back. The catch spawned several counter-attacks.

11:09 EDT   
The BMC team is continuing to be aggressive, just as they were in California. Kirsten Robbins spoke to team directo Gavin Chilcott this morning. They won't contest the sprint today, since they don't have a pure sprinter. It's windy, so he thinks this might break up the field. They'll try to drive some echelons if they happen, but really are waiting for Brasstown Bald to make the race.

11:11 EDT   
The Jittery Joe's team is taking control of the pace now as they roll along this wide-open divided highway. They'll be looking to strut their stuff on their home turf - the sponsor is based in Athens, Georgia.

11:13 EDT   
Cyclingnews diarist Trent 'Willo' Wilson is one of the Jittery Joe's boys in the race today.

We have an attack! Matthew Crane (Health Net Presented By Maxxis) and Mike Sayers (BMC Racing Team) slide off the front.

11:14 EDT   
As they speed along this highway, they draw closer to the bridge over the Intracoastal waterway. Yilin Liu (Trek - Marco Polo Cycling Team) bridges across to Sayers and Crane.

11:15 EDT    18.5mi/51.9mi to go
However, once more the peloton is too fresh and too attentive to let anything go quite yet. The peloton is together once more and will start to enjoy a cross-tail wind soon.

11:17 EDT   
They've gone over the water and across several railroad crossings and are now five kilometres to the first intermediate sprint bonus of the day. The Georgia Power sprint is worth three seconds to the first man across, two for second, one for third.

11:18 EDT   
The Symmetrics team hits the front with powerhouse Svein Tuft setting the pace.

11:20 EDT   
Toyota United is up there, too, leading out for the Ivans: Stevic and Dominguez - both very strong sprinters. They've got some narrow streets to negotiate now as they head into the heart of downtown Savannah.

11:21 EDT   
There is a hard right just 200m before the line which will make this sprint tricky. Nothing to any rider who's been racing the US criterium circuit, however.

11:22 EDT   
Team High Road heads to the front for former ProTour leader André Greipel, or perhaps the speedy kiwi Greg Henderson.

11:23 EDT    22mi/48.4mi to go
The sprint is on!

11:24 EDT   
We'll get you the results of that sprint in a second, but BMC has countered the sprint even though the speed is a whopping 34mph!

11:24 EDT   
Health Net's sprinter Frank Pipp suffered a rear flat, and that will certainly make for a hard chase at these speeds! They've got to negotiate several more train crossings, which can be hard on the tires.

11:26 EDT   
Nicholas Reistad (Jelly Belly Cycling Team) also has a flat, meanwhile the BMC rider has decided to sit up.

We're still waiting on sprint results, and the counter-attacks are still flying through the streets of Savannah. They're entering Garden City now.

11:29 EDT   
Today is a day for the sprinters on paper, but there are some concerted attempts to get away from teams who don't fancy their chance in the bunch kick. Team Type 1 puts Aldape up the road with Tim Johnson (Health Net) and Zirbel, but they come back. They've only got 5km to the next sprint bonus.

11:30 EDT   
They head into the town of Pooler now, and are all back together. But there are more attacks - the riders are trying to use the turns to get clear: Jittery Joe's, Health Net and Symmetrics are the most aggressive.

11:31 EDT   
Kirsten Robbins spoke with Karl Menzies and Frank Pipp of Health Net this morning, and they said they're betting on bunch sprint. A lot of teams brought strong sprinters because most stages favor a sprint, but they're hoping to be competitive against the likes of Haedo, Förster and Greipel.

11:33 EDT   
Mike Sayers (BMC Racing Team), Eric Wohlberg (Symmetrics Cycling Team) and Trent Wilson (Jittery Joe's Pro Cycling Team) have extracted themselves from the peloton, and are being chased by Valery Kobzarenko (Team Type 1). They've got a nice gap now!

11:34 EDT   
The results of the first sprint was:
Gregory Henderson (Team High Road)
Tyler Farrar (Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30)
Ivan Stevic (Toyota - United Pro Cycling Team)

11:37 EDT    29.5mi/40.9mi to go
The four leaders up front have about 15 seconds on the peloton. Correction to the earlier post: we were five miles to the second intermediate sprint a few minutes ago, not kilometers. One of these four men stands a chance at tying Greg Henderson for the 'virtual lead'.

11:39 EDT    30mi/40.4mi to go
Now they're really in Pooler, and will have another railroad crossing to deal with before the sprint. The've only been racing for just under an hour and are nearly at the half-way point!

11:41 EDT   
This year's Tour de Georgia is made a bit difficult to call, tactically. The team time trial is an unknown - it's a hilly, technical course preceded by dead flat stages and followed by big mountains. The favourites have to be riders like Levi Leipheimer (Astana) and Christian Vande Velde (Slipstream).

11:41 EDT   
The high pace has nullified the attack, and the peloton is all together heading into the sprint. The speed is upwards of 32mph!

11:43 EDT   
Still, Matt Cooke (Health Net Presented By Maxxis), has a go at getting off the front.

Another dark horse for the overall this year is American David Zabriskie. He's got some of his old pals from CSC on the Slipstream team this year, and is rocking his secret weapon: the moustache. His dastardly facial hair is bigger and badder than ever.

11:44 EDT    31mi/39.4mi to go
The tracks gave Colom (Astana) a flat, but now the sprint is on!

11:45 EDT   
Matt Cooke (Health Net) was dangling just before the sprint, and was caught just on the line, but the Cyclingnews 'Hindenberg IV' blimp is too high above the line to see if he made it or not.

11:47 EDT    34mi/36.4mi to go
The sprint allowed a group of about 18 riders to slip off the front - we're trying to get some names, as well as the results of that sprint.

11:51 EDT   
The breakaway is pretty big and now has 20 seconds. Justin England (Toyota - United Pro Cycling Team), Nicholas Sanderson (Jelly Belly Cycling Team), Victor Hugo Pena (Rock Racing), Corey Collier (Health Net Presented By Maxxis), Chris Horner (Astana), Bobby Julich (Team CSC), Kanstantin Siutsou (Team High Road), Oscar Gatto (Gerolsteiner), Thomas Danielson (Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30), Jonathan Garcia (BMC Racing Team), Mike Sayers (BMC Racing Team) and Richard England (Bissell Pro Cycling) are the men up front, but aren't quite yet organized.

11:53 EDT   
That didn't last too long! They just did not get organized. The peloton is back together before we can even confirm the composition of the break!

11:54 EDT   
We can say that it was Matt Rice, not Sanderson in the move.

11:56 EDT   
Henk Vogels (Toyota - United Pro Cycling Team) goes back to the team car for a bottle, and gets a big hand sling to get back into the peloton which is racing away at a furious speed.

11:58 EDT   
We're past the halfway mark of this stage now, and the riders have decided to have a break for lunch now. They hit the feedzone and called off the action so the riders could get their drinks. They probably won't need much more than that with such a short stage - maybe some gels or part of a bar...

11:59 EDT   
They're also taking this chance to answer the call of nature once more now that they're outside town a bit - there aren't as many houses here.

12:02 EDT   
We're still trying to get the sprint results, to see if Cooke got that sprint or not... the blimp's connection to race radio is being broken up a bit.

We'll take this opportunity to let you all know about a cool little contest being put on by Team High Road. They're giving fans a chance to win a Giant Team Edition bike worth $6000 or a signed High Road jersey or a High Road Team Kit. All you need to do is make a donation to their partner charity, Right To Play.

Right to Play is a non-profit organisation led by four-time Olympic gold medalist, and Right To Play President and CEO Johann Olav Koss. It uses specially designed sport and play programs to improve health, build life skills, and foster peace for children and communities affected by war, poverty and disease.

12:06 EDT   
One of the riders who made that short-lived move was Rock Racing's Victor Hugo Pena. The former yellow jersey wearer of the Tour is riding in support of his team-mates Santiago Botero, Oscar Sevilla and Tyler Hamilton. The team, on paper, should be very strong and a prime contender for the overall. However, they've lacked the high level of racing that the Team CSC, Slipstream, High Road and Gerolsteiner teams have enjoyed this year. The three stars weren't allowed into Tour of California due to controversy over alleged involvement in Operacion Puerto.

12:08 EDT   
We've got three riders trying to have a go at breaking away now: Bissell, BMC and Symmetrics are up the road again - these teams are very aggressive here in Georgia. A Jelly Belly rider bridges across.

12:09 EDT   
It's Garrett Peltonen (Bissell Pro Cycling), Scott Nydam (BMC Racing Team), Christian Meier (Symmetrics Cycling Team) and Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly Cycling Team) with a Health Net rider coming across.

12:10 EDT   
It looks like Health Net's Frank Pipp is the rider who came across, now the five riders are working smoothly together to establish their gap.

12:13 EDT   
There is still one intermediate sprint to go, and while this move of five has a decent gap, there are no ProTour riders up here. Now Ivan Stevic bridges across! The Toyota United rider wearing the jersey of B World Champion is quite a fast sprinter, and won a stage last year.

12:15 EDT    45mi/25.4mi to go
The Gerolsteiner team has come to the front of the peloton to control the pace as the riders head back toward Savannah. They'll have another sprint coming up in about ten miles.

12:17 EDT   
The pace isn't that frenetic in the peloton - it appears that the bubbly water boys are letting the break dangle for a while, waiting for the sprint to draw closer before putting in the effort. Astana comes to the fore now to try to pick things up.

12:19 EDT   
Meanwhile our break is working smoothly together, pulling out the gap a bit as the peloton sits up and spreads across the road. Stevic and Pipp are the fastest men in this break, but the sprinters are doing their fair share to keep the break moving.

12:20 EDT   
The roads here are as flat as flat can be, and with tall trees lining both sides of the highway, there isn't a bit of wind to worry the riders. The sun is shining, the skies are a brilliant blue and it's a gorgeous day for a bike race.

The break is out to one minute thanks to the peloton sitting up!

12:22 EDT    47mi/23.4mi to go
Slipstream now comes to the front of the peloton and picks up the speed quite a bit. The peloton is lined out single file now on the lonely roads outside Savannah. It's the best time to start chasing, because once the break gets into the many twists and turns and railroad crossings in town, the chase will be harder.

12:24 EDT   
Last year, a breakaway on stage three put 29 minutes into the peloton and pretty much decided the GC before the race even hit the mountains. The rest of the peloton isn't going to let that happen again! The gap has come back down under a minute.

12:26 EDT   
The lead group of six, Garrett Peltonen (Bissell Pro Cycling), Scott Nydam (BMC Racing Team), Christian Meier (Symmetrics Cycling Team), Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly Cycling Team), Frank Pipp (Health Net Presented By Maxxis) and Ivan Stevic (Toyota) aren't letting up. However, they're on a long, pin straight road which allows the peloton to keep them in view.

12:27 EDT   
The race radio is having trouble transmitting results, so we still don't have that second sprint, but we do know that Fabio Calabria (Team Type 1) took third.

12:30 EDT   
We've got a question about the B World Champion, Ivan Stevic. The B Worlds are for smaller countries like Stevic's native Serbia. It's a legitimate UCI title, and he sports rainbow bands, but on a medium blue background rather than the regular white background of the UCI World Champion.

12:32 EDT    55.4mi/15mi to go
High Road, Astana, Slipstream and Gerolsteiner are still driving the pace as the break enjoys a minute's lead. They're still heading straight down the highway toward town, but are getting closer to the next sprint line. It seems that we're just under five miles away from that line.

12:35 EDT   
The break is 5km from the next sprint, and the pace in the peloton has picked up. Our average speed today has been 25mph - pretty brisk. Cooke has a rear flat - he was off the front before the last sprint, now he's off the back.

12:35 EDT   
If the breakaway could look back down this arrow straight road, they'd see a rather frightening sight: what looks like a freight train is bearing down on them, although it is really just the Astana-led peloton.

12:38 EDT   
In Savannah, it's lunchtime and the workers have all come out to see the big bike race come through. They'll be treated to the riders heading to the finish line in short order. Probably less than 30 minutes.

12:39 EDT    58.5mi/11.9mi to go
There are also crowds gathering at the intermediate sprint in Pooler, which is just 1km up the road.

12:39 EDT   
Stevic is hovering at the back, but Meier attacks!

12:39 EDT   
Stevic responds, and powers past the Symmetrics rider to take the sprint ahead of Meier. It looked like Nydam might have been third.

12:40 EDT    60mi/10.4mi to go
After the sprint, the break quickly gets back to work rolling through - even Stevic is pulling as they pass a long gline of fans waving big cardboard hands.

12:42 EDT   
The peloton is starting to rotate, rather than having one rider take long pulls. This could bode poorly for the break, which still has over a minute on the field. With just ten miles to go, the sense of urgency has increased in the peloton.

12:44 EDT   
Today's finish is fairly technical - there are three turns in the final two kilometers, and five separate sets of train tracks.

The results of the third sprint are as follows:
1 Christian Meier (Symmetrics Cycling Team)
2 Ivan Stevic (Toyota - United Pro Cycling Team)
3 Garrett Peltonen (Bissell Pro Cycling)

12:46 EDT   
We've got some action in the breakaway now - they're entering a road which is almost a tunnel with trees, and three riders have split from Stevic, Meier and Nydam.

12:46 EDT   
The six men up front came back together, but there is some panic up front - they've got only 40 seconds now, and the peloton is closing in.

12:48 EDT   
Correction about the B Worlds, not for smaller countries in terms of population or geographical size, but the countries which aren't cycling powerhouses. China is actually part of the B Worlds, so it's not a weak competition.

12:49 EDT   
The gap is coming down fast now, and three riders have split from their companions. the gap is just ten seconds.

12:50 EDT   
Peltonen, Van Ulden and Nydam are trying to stay clear, but it's fairly futile. Stevic, Meier and Pipp are caught.

12:51 EDT   
Peltonen loses contact now. It looks like we'll have a big, ugly bunch sprint which will make things quite dangerous. Not only do they have train tracks to deal with, the last of which are at about 200m to go, but there is a turn onto quite a narrow road just 60m to the line. Let's hope there aren't any crashes!

12:52 EDT   
The catch has been made! Toyota goes straight to the front with Rock Racing just behind. High Road is sitting behind the four Rock Racing riders.

12:53 EDT    67mi/3.4mi to go
Just three miles to go and Rock Racing has control for Fast Freddie Rodriguez!

12:54 EDT   
Rock Racing was invited to the Tour at the last minute as a replacement for Saunier Duval, who ran out of riders after a string of injuries. The Rock boys are sporting a sort of sickly green and black kit up front.

12:55 EDT   
The final five kilometres are riddled with difficulties, but Rock is keeping things safe by stringing out the bunch. They'll want to keep the always fragile Tyler Hamilton upright on his bike.

12:55 EDT    67.4mi/3mi to go
Astana is moving up next to Rock as they enjoy the last bit of straight road for a while.

12:56 EDT   
There's another train from Slipstream swamping the Rock Racing team - now the green is mixing with orange and blue as well as the yellow and teal of Astana - quite the clash of color!

12:57 EDT   
The Rock boys have the front again, but can they hold it? Slipstream is still up there, and here comes High Road.

12:57 EDT   
Gerolsteiner is coming up on the right...

12:58 EDT   
There is a lot of jostling for position as High Road takes the front and picks up the pace - it's starting to line out a bit more.

12:58 EDT   
High Road pulls off and the pace lets up - Rock moves back up and Fast Freddie is in position!

12:59 EDT    69.2mi/1.2mi to go
High Road cedes to Rock and Gerolsteiner blasts past!

12:59 EDT    69.4mi/1mi to go
Gerolsteiner has the front and the 1km to go banner is in sight!

13:00 EDT   
Three GST riders on the front and High Road in the draft - Freddie is still up there, but on the right side there is a clash of elbows with Astana moving up.

13:00 EDT   
Still GST and they're inside the final 500m!

13:00 EDT   
Ivan Dominguez is up here!

13:00 EDT   
Ivan Dominguez came from out of nowhere and takes the win!

13:01 EDT   
The 'Cuban Missile' Ivan Dominguez played that sprint perfectly - he tucked himself behind the big teams and got past the Gerolsteiner blockade. Foerster, of GST was third...

13:03 EDT   
For all the talk of the finale being dangerous, the riders managed to shoot through with ease. Unfortunately, Slipstream's sprinter Tyler Farrar flatted, which explains their withdrawal from the front in that lead-out. The train tracks ate up some tires today.

13:03 EDT   
Second was Nic Sanderson of Jelly Belly! A great result for another domestic squad!

13:18 EDT   
Ivan Dominguez takes the first leader's jersey thanks to the time bonus on the line.

Thanks for tuning into our live coverage, and be sure to come back again tomorrow at 11:00 EDT for stage two.

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