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Tour de Georgia - 2.HC
USA, April 21-27, 2008
Stage 6 - April 26: Blairsvill/Union County - Brasstown Bald/Towns County, 88.4mi/142.3km
Complete live report
By Sue George with reporting from Mark Zalewski and Kirsten Robbins
10:46 EDT Good morning and welcome to Cyclingnews' stage six coverage of the Tour de Georgia. The racers will be starting in Blairstown, Georgia, in just over another 15 minutes. Today's stage will be decisive. We expect breakaways will try to get away for the flat first 50 miles, and then the fireworks will begin with the first climb to Hogpen Gap. After the category two Union Gap, the race will head up the tortuous slopes of Brasstown Bald, where the overall leader will probably emerge.
10:51 EDT Today's stage starts from Meeks Park and rolls out for a 3.8 mile neutral period. The official start is in front of the courthouse. Racers will have awhile before the first and only sprint, which will occur just before the 40 mile mark.
11:00 EDT The weather is gorgeous. Temperatures are in the high 70s. The riders are rolling out for their neutral start.
11:03 EDT While we have bright, sunny skies at the moment, there is a chance of thunderstorms later today.
11:05 EDT A special shout out goes to the folks at Mavic who are kindly giving us a ride in the Mavic 2 vehicle for the day.
11:13 EDT Starting today's stage, our top five riders are
1 Trent Lowe (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30)
They are all seperated by just four seconds and there are, in fact, 17 riders, within 30 seconds of the lead. Today should be an exciting race as the top riders battle it out to take over the yellow jersey before the final stage tomorrow.
11:14 EDT The riders are taking their time through the neutral. They are stopping for nature breaks, adjusting clothing, chatting with each other - rolling along at about 15 mph. They'll pass back through Blairsville again later in the race for hte first and only sprint, after completing a long loop and before heading out to the mountains.
11:14 EDT And they're off - with the attacks starting, too!
11:16 EDT Loh Sea Keong (GE Trek - Marco Polo) and Jonathan Cantwell (Jittery Joe's) haven't wasted any time. They attacked at about meter three of the race and quickly got themselves 15 seconds. We expect a break to try to get away in the early part of the stage before the favorites hit it hard up the climbs later in the race.
11:17 EDT The two riders are caught.
11:19 EDT Two riders, Doug Ollerenshaw (Rock Racing) and Victor Hugo Pena (Rock Racing), get flats. That's a tough way to start the day, but hopefully they'll be feeling fresh enough to bridge right back up. It can be challenging sometimes though to regain contact when riders are trying to launch attacks and get away at the front.
11:22 EDT Correction here: Doug Ollerenshaw (Rock Racing) stopped to pace up Oscar Sevilla (Rock Racing), the person who got the flat. Sevilla is the team's leader, so Rock Racing will want to protect him and keep him from having to work too hard to catch back up.
11:24 EDT 4mi/84.4mi to go More attacks are going. A few riders got away, but they're caught quickly. Our reporter, Kirsten Robbins, is driving up Brasstown Bald for the finish and she said she is shocked by the size of the crowds. "There are so many people here - on both sides of the road, the cars are bumper to bumper. The crowd goes on for much of the 5km crowd. I've never seen this many people here before." So far, the stages have had light crowds, but today is a beautiful weekend day and many fans will not be tied up with work and able to come out and watch.
11:26 EDT Nicholas Reistad (Jelly Belly) and Edward King (Bissell) give it a go and get up to five seconds, but their attack doesn't stick and they are caught. We just passed King road, too, ironically enough.
11:29 EDT 8mi/80.4mi to go Twelve riders get a slight gap. They are Evan Elken (Jittery Joe's), Anders Lund (Team CSC), Aaron Tuckerman (Jelly Belly), Frank Pipp (Health Net p/b Maxxis), Loh Sea Keong (GE Trek - Marco Polo), Matthew Wilson (Team Type 1), Evan Elken (Jittery Joe's), Volker Ordowski (Gerolsteiner), Mike Sayers (BMC Racing Team), Nicholas Reistad (Jelly Belly), Aaron Kemps (Astana), Gregory Henderson (Team High Road), and Edward King (Bissell). They've got 10 seconds.
11:31 EDT The gap is up to 15 seconds - if these guys can work together, they may be able to make this one stick. Many teams are represented. You may have noticed that our top three GC riders all have the same time. They're also all from the same team (Slipstream). Although it may have been more interesting to let them thumb wrestle to decide who got to wear yellow today; we understand that the officials decided it instead by who crossed the line first in the team time trial.
11:36 EDT The break is caught. Astana chased it down. The team will be working for Levi Leipheimer, who is in fourth place overall, just four seconds back. He told Kirsten Robbins before the start that his team did a majority of the work yesterday relative to the other teams. Leipheimer also said he's feeling better every day and he knows he'll have a good day today.
11:42 EDT It looks like Oscar Sevilla (Rock Racing) dropped his chain on a small rise and his team-mates have dropped back to help him out.
11:46 EDT Some of you may remember last year's stage up Brasstown Bald. Levi Leipheimer put the hammer down on the final climb and won the stage. His then team-mate Tom Danielson was second.
11:53 EDT 16mi/72.4mi to go Oscar Sevilla (Rock Racing) is getting another wheel change. He is probably getting his original wheel, but with the flat repaired.
11:55 EDT Rock Racing has dropped back to help Sevilla. In 2006, it was Tom Danielson, who won, ahead of Floyd Landis. Danielson explained to Kirsten Robbins before the start why it looked like he appeared to struggle yesterday. "I dropped his chain on one of the climbs which is why I popped off the back for a little while." He said he's still coming back up to speed after his injury, but he's feeling good. Danielson wouldn't tell us his plan for today, but he did hint, "We might be doing something interesting today."
11:57 EDT That group of 18 was caught, but we have another, smaller group off the front. We'll get the names for you.
11:59 EDT 21mi/67.4mi to go Our group, with 15 seconds, includes Valery Kobzarenko (Team Type 1), Ivan Stevic (Toyota - United), Andrey Mizurov (Astana), Craig Lewis (Team High Road), Stephan Schreck (Gerolsteiner), Neil Shirley (Jittery Joe's) and Svein Tuft (Symmetrics). Michael Creed (Rock Racing) is trying to bridge. Looks like Tyler Hamilton is getting some service from the team car back in the main peloton.
12:09 EDT Correction: It looks like Creed is not really in the lead group of seven. But the riders there are trading pulls and working strongly together to quickly grow the gap which is up to 1.05.
12:16 EDT 27mi/61.4mi to go Stephan Schreck (Gerolsteiner) drops back slightly from the break - getting some advice from his team car. Back in the peloton, Slipstream has decided to come to the front with three riders setting the pace. At last time check, the gap was 1.20 between the break and the peloton, but it is still going up quickly.
12:19 EDT 30mi/58.4mi to go We had some confusion initially figuring out who was in the break, but just to recap, our seven men in the lead are Jason McCartney (Team CSC), Ivan Stevic (Toyota - United), Andrey Mizurov (Astana), Craig Lewis (Team High Road), Stephan Schreck (Gerolsteiner), Neil Shirley (Jittery Joe's), Svein Tuft (Symmetrics). They've worked their gap up to 2.10, and by virtue of his position in the GC, Jason McCartney is the virtual leader on the road.
12:25 EDT In our lead group, Ivan Stevic is the man clad in blue with rainbow stripes. He wears that jersey by virtue of his title as B World Champion. The Toyota United rider has been injured all winter and thus far in the Tour de Georgia, working for his team-mates in the sprints. Before the start, he told Kirsten Robbins that he'd be working ultimately for his climbers today - like Justin England and Chris Baldwin.
12:28 EDT 35mi/53.4mi to go "The climb up Brasstown Bald is hard, but getting there is harder than the climb itself," said Stevic before the start. "There are two KOMs, then it's flat to the base of the climb. It's like Mach 10 going into the final climb." That's when the teams are working hard to position their favorites and wear out the other riders. Stevic thinks that final run-up to Brasstown Bald will be the hardest for him.
12:31 EDT The lead group's gap is now 2.35 and they are seeing 5km to go to the first and only sprint of the day, which happens back in our start town of Blairsville. The leaders are wrapping up a loop they've done to the northwest side of Blairsville. Then they head out to the southeast before looping partway back toward Blairsville, but ending up at the finish at Brasstown Bald.
12:34 EDT Svein Tuft (Symmetrics) drops back from the break slightly to get some more to drink from his team car. The rest of the riders, except for Andrey Mizurov (Astana) are trading pulls evenly.
12:35 EDT Mizurov is not working - he's under no obligation as he will want the break to eventually come back so that his Astana team-mates will be in the right place going into the day's climbs, especially, the final run up Brasstown. There's no reason for him to work hard and help the break get more of a gap than they already have. 1 km to go until the sprint.
12:36 EDT Our sprint results are
12:38 EDT There was no contest for the sprint. The break just worked through it. The gap has shrunk significantly - it's back down to 1.35.
12:39 EDT After the sprint, the gap is back up to 2.35.
12:42 EDT The leaders on a slight climb. The first KOM is coming up - Hogpen Gap, a category one at mile 57.1. Neil Shirley (Jittery Joe's) is setting the pace at the front of the break. There are a few fans along this part of the course. Seems like many have made the journey to Brasstown Bald to spectate there instead.
12:46 EDT Stevic leads up and over this climb. Svein Tuft is one of our break riders today. He's from British Columbia in Canada. He's been racing for Symmetrics for six years and is the current UCI continental points leader. Before he started racing, he used to be a "littlest hobo" of sorts... He used to travel by bike from BC to Mexico and then up to Alaska. He jumped trains through the Rocky Mountains - riding in cargo cars. Then, he found out his grandfather was a famous Norwegian cyclist who used to race with Eddy Merckx, and he decided he wanted to race, too. Clearly those good genes are only helping him!
12:50 EDT 42mi/46.4mi to go The racers hit 63mph on a recent descent! We're riding along in the Mavic vehicle. It's a Saab, 9-3 model wagon, so there is plenty of space for us, and of course, for lots of wheels, too. The leader's gap is 2.50.
12:59 EDT One of our readers, Brent Bookwalter of the BMC cycling team, asked about Timothy Duggan, the rider who crashed at high speed in Wednesday's stage. Last we've heard, he had surgery to repair his shoulder. The surgery reportedly went well and Duggan should be out of the hospital soon.
13:03 EDT 49mi/39.4mi to go The gap is down slightly to 2.05. A South Mississppi flatlander wrote to ask us about the gears the riders are using for today's mountainous stage. In the rear, many riders have an 11-26 cassette for the day, with the standard cranks. However, we've heard that some riders have chosen to ride compact cranks today - that gives them some lower gears to spin more up the steep climbs. Matt Wilson told Mark Zalewski before the start that he is racing the smallest gears he has ever ridden.
13:04 EDT The gap is dropping more quickly now. It's at 1.45 and the leaders are seeing 5km to go until the feed zone. They're on a dangerous descent.
13:07 EDT Jason McCartney (CSC) is one of our break riders. Once upon a time, he traveled to Belgium on his own money to see if he would race his bike. He returned to the US disheartened at how difficult it was, and for a couple of years, he worked in kitchens and at "crummy jobs". He told Kirsten Robbins that he decided to start racing at a realistic level in the US and won the Tour de Georgia Dalahnega stage in 2004. That's when the Discovery Team offered him a contract.
13:09 EDT Riding now for CSC, McCartney said he has a green light to take advantage of stage win opportunities here at Georgia. In the past, he has always been on big teams - something that seems to suit the humble rider well as he has a passion for domestique work and loves his bike Last fall, he had a big performance at the Vuelta a Espana, where he won a stage.
13:11 EDT 52mi/36.4mi to go As the break approaches the feed zone, they'll be looking for some fluids and probably some electrolytes. It's 82 degrees (Fahrenheit) here, so they'll be sweating out lots - especially working for so hard and long off the front. The gap is at 2 minutes. Looks like our TV crew is taking a nature break - it's not only the riders that have to respond when nature calls during the stages.
13:16 EDT Team High Road's Craig Lewis is one of today's break riders. He finished seventh in the top 10 in the 2007 Tour l'Avenir in France. Lewis is almost a local. He hails from Greenville, South Carolina, just a few hours from Georgia. At least one of our readers is watching Lewis closely. Paul Stankowski writes, "Keep your eyes peeled for him. He could be today's surprise. He's the real deal."
13:19 EDT McCartney is leading the break on the climb up to Hogpen Gap. He's setting a steady pace and is probably the strongest climber in the bunch. Ivan Stevic (Toyota - United) is coming off the back. He seems to be cracking and will have a hard time catching back up if he doesn't make it over the top with the bunch.
13:21 EDT 55mi/33.4mi to go Craig Lewis (Team High Road) and Stephan Schreck (Gerolsteiner) are coming off the pace of the break now. The break is really splintering. Back in the main peloton, Slipstream is at the front pushing the pace. The gap to the leaders is still at about 2.05.
13:25 EDT One kilometer to go until the KOM. Our break is down to just four main riders with two more trailing one at a time behind. The gap is down to 25 seconds and it looks like the leaders may be caught before the top of the KOM.
13:26 EDT The four break riders left are Jason McCartney (Team CSC), Andrey Mizurov (Astana), Svein Tuft (Symmetrics), Neil Shirley (Jittery Joe's). Slipstream is driving the chase hard.
13:28 EDT After the KOM, the racers will negotiate a twisty, high speed descent. Once they are caught, we're likely to see some more counter attacks.
13:30 EDT McCartney rides away from the break group to take the KOM points. Now they are flying downhill.
13:31 EDT The four leaders regroup on the descent and continue trading pulls, excepting still for Andrey Mizurov (Astana), who is still sitting on.
13:33 EDT We're getting conflicting reports about how big the gap really is between the break and the main peloton - we'll let you know the correct gap as soon as we get confirmation. The estimates we've heard have ranged from 0.25 to 1.05.
13:36 EDT Many riders got dropped from the main field on the Hogpen climb. We're estimating about 50 riders or so let in the main peloton - which is largely being driven by Team Slipstream.
13:38 EDT Official KOM #1 results (Hogpen)
13:39 EDT There's not much time left until the second KOM, called Unicoi Gap, which is at an elevation of 2,949 feet.
13:41 EDT 62mi/26.4mi to go That second KOM comes at 74.4 miles in the race. Our four leaders (Jason McCartney (Team CSC), Andrey Mizurov (Astana), Svein Tuft (Symmetrics) and Neil Shirley (Jittery Joe's)) have a gap of 1.40.
13:42 EDT The other three original break riders have been caught by the main peloton.
13:44 EDT Back in the peloton, Stevic is doing some refueling. In the meantime, it's Tuft driving the front of the break.
13:45 EDT The four man break has split for the moment in half with McCartney and Tuft at the front. Shirley and Mizurov are dropped by them.
13:47 EDT 65mi/23.4mi to go Another chase group has escaped the main peloton - working hard together to catch the break. They are 2.30 off the leaders. The main peloton, with about 40 riders, is at 4.15.
13:47 EDT All four leaders are back together. It'll be interesting to see if they wait for the chase group or continue on their own.
13:49 EDT Our six chasers are José Luis Rubiera Vigil (Astana), Bradley McGee (Team CSC), Craig Lewis (Team High Road), Thomas Lövkvist (Team High Road), Stephan Schreck (Gerolsteiner), and Santiago Botero Echeverry (Rock Racing)
13:53 EDT McCartney, who is riding in the break, is our virtual yellow jersey on the road. He is hoping to wear stars and stripes for the US at the Olympic Games in Beijing this summer. He has typically been in these long stage breaks and when the field chasing comes close to catching his group near the end, he is known to come through with one last solo effort. We'll see if he can pull that off again today.
13:57 EDT Chechu Rubiera, the Spanish climber, often works for Levi Leipheimer. He is going strong in the chase group.
13:57 EDT Leipheimer told us after the team time trial that he is keeping his eye on Santiago Botero. "That guys will never give up," said Leipheimer. "I have seen him down on GC before and then win the overall." He's certainly making a good effort here in the chase group.
13:59 EDT 67mi/21.4mi to go The lead group of four has 45 seconds on the chasers and 1.40 on the main peloton, which is down to just 51 racers. The team cars are being kept behind the chasers, so the leaders are actually now taking feeds from our Mavic support car.
14:00 EDT One High Road rider drops from the chase group. He must have worked too hard. It's 5km to go to the KOM #2.
14:02 EDT Craig Lewis (Team High Road) was the rider who dropped from the chase group. No doubt his work in the original break has caught up with him. The leaders now have only 20 seconds on the chase group.
14:05 EDT The leaders still have 20 seconds on the chasers. McCartney is doing a lot of work at the front. Trent Lowe and three Slipstream riders are setting pace in the field. The main peloton is splitting up on the KOM, about 1.25 back.
14:06 EDT Botero pushes the pace in the chase group and starts to split it up.
14:08 EDT Only four riders are left in the chase. Two riders have dropped off the chase.
14:09 EDT As a reminder, the four chasers left are Bradley McGee (Team CSC), Thomas Lövkvist (Team High Road), Santiago Botero Echeverry (Rock Racing), José Luis Rubiera Vigil (Astana)
14:10 EDT Lövkvist and Schreck are the two who have dropped. At the front of the leaders' group, McCartney is driving hard to the top of the gap were the KOM comes with about 14 miles left to go.
14:13 EDT McCartney goes for the KOM and no one gives him much of a challenge as he takes the points at Unicoi Gap. He's certainly been the strong man up the climb today.
14:17 EDT 76mi/12.4mi to go Now the peloton crests over KOM #2. Our four leaders have 30 seconds over the chasers. The peloton, all together except for a few riders completely dropped, is 1.40 behind.
14:18 EDT KOM #2 results:
14:20 EDT This year, organizers have moved Brasstown stage to the day before the final stage. In 2007, there were two stages following Brasstown. Our four chasers don't seem to be gaining ground on our four leaders.
14:21 EDT Leipheimer is in the main peloton, biding his time and sitting on the wheel of Chris Horner. Before the start of the race, Horner said to Mark Zalewski, "I'm the last guy in line for Levi today." That means Horner will take Leipheimer as far as he can up the climb. This is Horner's third year doing the race. He's a good lieutenant to have working for you. Astana is sitting in a good spot at the moment as Slipstream is working hard to close the gap.
14:23 EDT The chasers can see the leaders. It looks like they're coming together. In contrast, the peloton is nowhere in sight.
14:24 EDT Andrey Mizurov (Astana) gets dropped from the leaders!
14:25 EDT The eight riders have all come together - the leaders and chasers are together.
14:26 EDT Shirley attacks and goes clear.
14:28 EDT 80mi/8.4mi to go Shirley is standing on the pedals. He's alone out front, occasionally looking back over his shoulders. He's got about a 10 second gap and is opening it up.
14:31 EDT 82.4mi/6mi to go Shirley has 22 seconds on the chasers, who are riding tempo. They are probably expecting Shirley to drop like a rock once he hits the climb. The gap to the field is 1.40. It's cloudy at the top of Brasstown Bald, where the riders are soon headed.
14:32 EDT The organizers have told us that Shirley is getting the most aggressive rider jersey today. There are a lot of Jittery Joe's fans on the climb up Brasstown Bald. They are going to go nuts about Shirley being off the front if he can stick it off the front.
14:33 EDT Shirley hits the wall and is struggling obviously. The seven chasers are coming hard. We can also see the peloton now chasing behind the seven chasers. With everyone in sight, it's about to get really interesting.
14:33 EDT Two riders are working their way up to Shirley. Others are strung out behind him.
14:34 EDT Rubiera catches and passes Shirley.
14:34 EDT Bradley McGee is right on Rubiera. The two have a slight gap.
14:37 EDT Bobby Julich has attacked out of the main field.
14:38 EDT He makes his move to come across to his CSC team-mate McGee.
14:39 EDT Rubiera is setting the pace with his companion up front.
14:40 EDT Julich still has his gap on the main field, but he's not getting more time and it looks like his attack may have been too early or not strong enough.
14:42 EDT It's José Luis Rubiera Vigil (Astana) and Bradley McGee (Team CSC) at the front working hard.
14:43 EDT Rubiera is pulling away from McGee and is riding solo at the front.
14:44 EDT Leipheimer is leading a group to catch the two leaders.
14:46 EDT The two leaders off the front have gotten caught, so we have one small group in the front at the lead, including Leipheimer.
14:46 EDT Trent Lowe, in the yellow jersey is also there.
14:47 EDT Rubiera drops off the pace. His job is done. An Astana rider is setting the pace at the front for Leipheimer. Lowe is marking him.
14:49 EDT There are seven riders together here at the front.
14:50 EDT It's six riders now at the front as a Rock Racing rider drops off. It's Sevilla.
14:50 EDT Sevilla catches back up.
14:51 EDT A battle is shaping up between Leipheimer and Lowe, both of whom are in the lead group. A CSC rider is setting the pace now.
14:52 EDT 85.6mi/2.8mi to go They can see the top of Brasstown Bald now. Leipheimer is taking over. Lowe is on his wheel, then Kanstantin Siutsou (Team High Road).
14:52 EDT Leipheimer is at the front, driving the pace. Fans are everywhere on both sides of the road, making a narrow path for the riders to pass.
14:54 EDT It's Kanstantin Siutsou (Team High Road), Levi Leipheimer (Astana) and Lowe riding together - the three are now alone at the front. Lowe is glued to Leipheimer's wheel.
14:54 EDT Leipheimer is out of the saddle - setting the pace still.
14:55 EDT 87.2mi/1.2mi to go Moises Aldape Chavez (Team Type 1) and Oscar Sevilla (Rock Racing) are climbing together behind the leaders.
14:56 EDT Our three leaders are still together. One rider is bridging up. It's a Rock Racing rider and looks like Sevilla.
14:57 EDT 87.8mi/0.6mi to go Sevilla makes contact and we have a group of four at the front.
14:57 EDT Sevilla goes right to the front and takes over the lead of the four man group.
14:58 EDT Rory Sutherland is making a good effort in attempt to catch up with the four leaders.
14:58 EDT 500m to go.
14:58 EDT Kanstantin Siutsou (Team High Road) attacks.
14:59 EDT He's a got a gap. No one is responding.
14:59 EDT Lowe is sitting tight on Leipheimer.
15:00 EDT Kanstantin Siutsou (Team High Road) gets 150m to go.
15:00 EDT Kanstantin Siutsou (Team High Road) is still at the front. Lowe attacks Leipheimer.
15:01 EDT Kanstantin Siutsou (Team High Road) takes the win!
15:01 EDT Lowe takes second.
15:02 EDT Leipheimer finishes five seconds behind Lowe. That means Lowe will stay in yellow and will keep the leader's jersey.
15:04 EDT To summarize, the top three at the end
of the Brasstown Bald stage are
We think Trent Lowe keeps his GC lead after a strong ride today. Even though Astana set the pace up much of the climb, it wasn't enough to get rid of the tenacious Lowe. Barring any mishaps or upsets tomorrow, Lowe is set up well as the leader going into the final stage, a circuit race in Atlanta.
15:09 EDT Riders are still finishing up. This climb really takes a toll and shatters the field at the end of the stage. We'll get you full results as soon as we can.
15:14 EDT That wraps up our live coverage for today's stage six. Thanks so much for joining us, and we'll see you tomorrow, Sunday, April 27, for stage seven, when live coverage will start at 1:00 pm EDT.
15:18 EDT Looks like we're not really quite done yet. We've gotten word that Trent Lowe is not our GC leader after all, but he will have to give up his yellow jersey to stage winner Kanstantin Siutsou (Team High Road).
15:25 EDT The High Road rider Siutsou managed to get enough of a gap with his final attack to take over race leadership. What a bold move while the two favorites were busy marking each other.
Provisional 1 Kanstantin Siutsou (Team High Road) 2 Trent Lowe (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30) 3 Levi Leipheimer (Astana) General classification after stage six 1 Kanstantin Siutsou (Team High Road)