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Tour de Georgia - 2.HC

USA, April 21-27, 2008

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Stage 7 - April 27: Atlanta circuit race, 62.7mi/100.9km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Laura Weislo with reporting from Mark Zalewski and Kirsten Robbins in Atlanta, Georgia

12:57 EDT    Welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the final showdown of the Tour de Georgia presented by AT&T. The GC situation is quite interesting - while High Road's Kanstantin Sivtsou leads the overall classification, he does so by just four slim seconds. Will Slipstream's Trent Lowe try to go for any intermediate bonus seconds?

12:59 EDT    Here in downtown Atlanta, or as we like to call it, Hotlanta. The Wallflower's singer Michael Ward, a famous cycling fan and friend of Lance Armstrong, is singing the national anthem and then we will be underway for 100km of fast racing.

12:59 EDT    There is no neutral parade lap today, and we expect the riders to throw down from the gun as they have every day here in Georgia. 30 seconds to start!

13:01 EDT    And they're off! The streets here around Centennial Olympic Park are all wet from the morning's rain, but at the moment all the water is coming from below off the tires of the riders and not from above. That's bound to change as bands of rain will be crossing the area all day.

13:03 EDT    There might be a battle for the points jersey today. Tyler Farrar (Slipstream) is 8 points down on Greg Henderson, our former yellow jersey from the High Road team. There are three sprint bonuses of 3, 2 and 1 points for three places and then the final sprint. No KOM's today. Jason McCartney will take that jersey home.

13:06 EDT    Today's circuit will feel almost like a criterium - while there are two long-ish straightaways, the farthest distance between the 15-odd turns is just over 1 kilometer. The roads are pretty rough - typical urban streets riddled with manhole covers, storm drains, potholes... it's a bumpy ride!

13:07 EDT    One team which will be inspired to win the stage today will be Rock Racing. They've had a somewhat lackluster Tour de Georgia, but will get a nice boost of spirit from the team's win in the Athens Twilight Criterium last night.

13:09 EDT    The speed in this race is as hot as the southern sun in August - and even though the field is single file, we've got a rider on the attack! He's getting a gap and a chase group is forming behind.

13:12 EDT    Our lone leader has built up a 30 second advantage on a chasing group, which contains: Jacob Erker (Symmetrics), Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner), Hilton Clarke (Toyota - United), Aaron Olson (Bissell), Doug Ollerenshaw (Rock Racing), Aaron Kemps (Astana), Christopher Jones (Team Type 1), Matthew Crane (Health Net p/b Maxxis), Darren Lill (BMC Racing Team), Matt Cooke (Health Net p/b Maxxis), Rhys Pollock (GE Trek - Marco Polo), Jonathan Garcia (BMC Racing Team), Justin England (Toyota - United) and Thomas Danielson (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30)

13:14 EDT    The lone leader was absorbed by that group, and back in the field Team High Road is controlling the pace with yellow jersey Sivtsou in tow.

13:18 EDT    8mi/54.7mi to go Our breakaway is getting solidified now, and they have a sprint this lap, which means they've gone past one lap now.

13:19 EDT    Justin England (Toyota - United) has flatted out of the breakaway. His team still has sprinter Hilton Clarke up there, so it's not too much of a worry.

13:20 EDT    The break is single file and bombing through the corners with Chris Jones on the front for Team Type 1. Now Danielson takes over and he's followed by the Health Net pair. Pollock is up there, too - he's been in breaks nearly every day!

13:22 EDT    We're getting flat after flat after flat here. So far Matt Rice and Jeremy Powers of Jelly Belly have been stricken, as has Krauss (Gerolsteiner) and now England. The city roads are wrecking havoc on the tires.

13:24 EDT    Cameron Evans has also flatted out of the break! Bad news, but Symmetrics still has Erker. The skies are getting a bit brighter now, and the standing water is drying up but the roads are still damp and a tad slick on the painted lines.

13:25 EDT    10mi/52.7mi to go Jackson Stewart has stopped to give his wheel to his team-mate Taylor Tolleson. The leaders have now extended their gap to 45 seconds and are down to 12 riders now that we've lost a few to flats.

13:26 EDT    Our break is now: Aaron Kemps (Astana), Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner), Jacob Erker (Symmetrics), Rhys Pollock (GE Trek - Marco Polo), Thomas Danielson (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30), Aaron Olson (Bissell), Matt Cooke and Matthew Crane (Health Net p/b Maxxis), Hilton Clarke (Toyota - United), Christopher Jones (Team Type 1), Jared Barrilleaux (Jittery Joe's) and Doug Ollerenshaw (Rock Racing) on the second lap. They've got 45 seconds now and will get a sprint at the end of this lap in two miles.

13:30 EDT    13mi/49.7mi to go A bit of a correction there - Kemps is out of the break, but Evans and England are in it. Kemps flatted out of the move, leaving it Astana-less. The break has come through the first intermediate sprint now - we'll get results shortly.

The break is: Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner), Cameron Evans and Jacob Erker (Symmetrics), Rhys Pollock (GE Trek - Marco Polo), Thomas Danielson (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30), Aaron Olson (Bissell), Matt Cooke and Matthew Crane (Health Net p/b Maxxis), Hilton Clarke and Justin England (Toyota - United), Christopher Jones (Team Type 1), Jared Barrilleaux (Jittery Joe's)

13:32 EDT    Results of that sprint, which wasn't much of a sprint, were as follows:
1 Matthew Crane (Health Net p/b Maxxis)
2 Rhys Pollock (GE Trek - Marco Polo)
3 Thomas Danielson (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30)

So it looks like if there will be a battle for bonus seconds by Slipstream, it won't be until later on. And if Farrar wants the points jersey, he will now have to get it on the finish line as there aren't enough points in intermediate sprints to put him ahead of Henderson now.

13:35 EDT    Big George Hincapie is leading the peloton around single file - he's keeping the two jersey holders on his team out of trouble at the same time maintaining a reasonable gap to the breakaway. He's keeping a steady pace while André Greipel (Team High Road) comes back from a flat tire.

It seems that the sun is trying to make an appearance above the riders now.

13:36 EDT    The breakaway is not messing around here. Danielson is driving it up front, his arms draped over the bars on the straightaways.

Now it's the turn of Matthias Russ (Gerolsteiner) to get practice chasing on after a flat tire. At this rate, Gerolsteiner might run out of spare wheels!

13:38 EDT    The course heads through some nice residential sections with tall, stately oak trees lining the sides of the road, and then on the other end it passes by an urban area with lots of tall hotels and office buildings. This area was hit by a tornado last month and some of the buildings are still showing the damage and have boarded up windows.

13:41 EDT    While the course today is largely flat, the roads do roll up a tad here and there, and one points which heads uphill is the sprint to the finish line.

Whoops! We have a crash in the break! Matthew Crane (Health Net p/b Maxxis) and Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner) have gone down and Lang is really upset with Crane. He's gesticulating wildly and screaming at Crane.

13:42 EDT    18mi/44.7mi to go A bit of adrenaline-fueled anger there as Lang blames Crane on that crash, but it was on a straightaway, so we're not sure what went on. Mavic is changing Crane's rear wheel and now he'll have to chase back into the main peloton.

13:44 EDT    18.8mi/43.9mi to go Now the break is down to ten, which won't hurt them too much. They're making their way up to the line for the end of the third lap. No sprint this time - they're still working well together.

13:47 EDT    The highest placed rider in the move is Matt Cooke (Health Net) who is in 19th - 2'52 down on GC.

Santiago Botero (Rock Racing) has abandoned the race, as has Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner) who was disgusted with that crash. He didn't appear hurt - maybe he's just so angry he can't see straight to pedal down the road.

13:49 EDT    Back in the field, it's still all High Road all the time. Not a single other team has pitched in yet, and they likely won't. Lowe has tucked himself on the wheel of Sivtsou, keeping a close eye on his rival. Lowe wears the best young rider's oak leaf jersey.

13:51 EDT    A crash in the field! Tom Zirbel (Bissell) has gone down - ouch. It looks like his pedal came right off the crank! It must be the massive watts this rider puts out that snapped that thing clean off. He'll face a tough chase back to the field.

13:52 EDT    The break, led by Chris Jones (Team Type 1) and Jared Barrilleaux (Jittery Joe's) is now up to a minute in front of the field. They're still working well together.

13:58 EDT    25mi/52.1mi to go The break is coming through with six laps to go, and while they were pulling the gap out for a while, now it's coming back down below one minute. The field is bunched up behind High Road.

14:00 EDT    Tom Zirbel is the next to abandon. The Bissell rider crashed when his pedal came off...

Team High Road's director Allan Peiper said this morning that the team wanted to control the race and have Greg Henderson mop up any bonus seconds in the sprints to protect Sivtsou's four second lead over Lowe, but it appears that this break is going to have the same effect.

14:04 EDT    This year's battle of Brasstown Bald will go down in history as one of the most critical tactical points in Tour de Georgia history. It's not every year that a stage race can be pinned down to one 600m section of road, but when Lowe failed to respond to Sivtsou's attack, he made a grave error.

Slipstream manager Jonathan Vaughters insisted that the team knew full well that Sivtsou was close on GC and that Lowe needed to go with him, but he said the climb was so hard, and they had been racing so flat out that perhaps it wasn't possible for him to go.

Either way, he had Leipheimer, who is experienced enough to know better, on his wheel, and the Astana rider knew it was up to Lowe to respond if he wanted to win. It is a hard lesson for someone as young as Lowe to learn, but the mere fact he was up there and battling for the overall win bodes well for his future.

14:07 EDT    The pace today is wearing on some tired legs - Kayle Leogrande (Rock Racing) has abandoned, as has Botero, Zirbel, Lang and now Ivan Dominguez is off the back and is going to get pulled.

14:09 EDT    29mi/33.7mi to go We're nearing the half-way point of the race and the break is still enjoying a 45 second lead, but it's beginning to drop. High Road is still doing all the work to control the pace, but we expect some other sprinter's teams to come to the fore. We've got a sprint coming at the end of this lap in two miles.

14:10 EDT    Dominguez has given up the race now. In the break, Olson is tail-gunning the group - sitting on the back and opening a little gap before the turns and then using his cornering skills to get back to the wheel.

14:13 EDT    Mike Sayers (BMC Racing Team) has also abandoned. Lots of attrition today - and it's not surprising. These guys have spent the first hour of each stage attacking each other, and the effort wears as the days go on. The next to drop off the back is Yilin Liu (GE Trek - Marco Polo).

Today's stage is especially hard on tired legs as it's not just the attacks that hurt but the "accordion effect" in the peloton as they negotiate about 15 turns per lap.

14:14 EDT    32mi/30.7mi to go The break rolled through the second sprint without much of a contest. They've now lost Aaron Olson (Bissell) who is the next victim of the rough roads - he's flatted and will be back in the field.

14:15 EDT    33mi/29.7mi to go The second sprint results are:
1 Christopher Jones (Team Type 1)
2 Jacob Erker (Symmetrics)
3 Jared Barrilleaux (Jittery Joe's)

14:18 EDT    Tyler Hamilton (Rock Racing) is the next to flat....

The roads are nearly dry now that the rain has held off since the start of the race. Olson is still tail-gunning the break, though. We're not sure if he's suffering or if he's saving himself for an attack. The break is holding 50 seconds - it seems High Road is happy to let them dangle.

14:22 EDT    35mi/27.7mi to go Olson is at the back of the break trying to recover after chasing back on to the group - he may have had a flat tire or a mechanical, but he was off the back of the break for a bit. He's in there now.

Our break is still: Cameron Evans and Jacob Erker (Symmetrics), Rhys Pollock (GE Trek - Marco Polo), Thomas Danielson (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30), Aaron Olson (Bissell), Matt Cooke (Health Net p/b Maxxis), Hilton Clarke and Justin England (Toyota - United), Christopher Jones (Team Type 1), Jared Barrilleaux (Jittery Joe's) and they've got 55 seconds.

14:23 EDT    The rubber munching roads continue to eat into our breakaway - now Chris Jones (Team Type 1) has a flat and is getting a slow, slow rear wheel change from neutral support. He's back up and sprinting after the break, but he's in 'no man's land'.

14:25 EDT    Jones is asking the neutral support moto for a bit of a tow to make up for that fairly lame wheel change. The driver obliges, and gives him the draft. Not sure if this will be a penalty for Jones, but he's been working his tail off in the break and deserves to get back up there.

14:27 EDT    37.6mi/25.1mi to go The break still has 55 seconds with four laps to go and Team High Road appears to be ready to let this one go. But... but... Toyota United has just attacked the breakaway?!

Jones is caught by the field.

14:32 EDT    The break is all back together, and Olson is on the back with his foot taped to his pedal. It must have been Olson who we saw with the pedal detached - perhaps his cleat came off - and Zirbel's crash was perhaps unrelated to his pedal... we'll get this sorted out sooner or later.

14:36 EDT    41mi/21.7mi to go Olson is back with the neutral support moto again, but he's hanging at the back of the break. They've got just 21 miles to go. Richard England gets a wheel from Ben Jacques-Maynes. The sprinter who won stage five must be feeling good for the sprint, and has asked his team-mate to sacrifice for him

14:39 EDT    Drama for our GC contenders: Trent Lowe (Slipstream) - the best young rider - has flatted! Tyler Farrar gives him his wheel - a huge sacrifice for the sprinter who is battling for the points jersey today.

14:40 EDT    With Lowe off the back and second on GC, his team have all dropped back to pace him on. He's on his own going through the caravan at the moment, pacing off the Toyota car, diving inside the High Road car in a turn and then is behind the commissaire's car. His team-mate is behind him, but he's in a panic.

14:41 EDT    Lucas Euser comes up to Lowe and gives him a push. Zabriskie also gets up to his wheel and they calm Lowe down. No worries at all - they get him back to the field and set about moving him back up to the front.

14:43 EDT    The BMC team has trouble now - Galvin gives over his wheel to Tolleson. Meanwhile, Aaron Olson has gotten a bike change, and now has a bike he can properly pedal with both feet.

14:46 EDT    46mi/16.7mi to go A few folks might be asking "Sivtsou who?!" - who is this mysterious rider from Belarus? Well, he was the 2004 U23 time trial world champion, and has been on the Barloworld, Acqua & Sapone and Fassa Bortolo teams. He turned pro in 2005. He's only 25 and was one of the team's GC leaders from the start of the race. High Road had great faith in this young rider and he paid them back with a brilliant stage win and what looks like the overall win as well.

14:50 EDT    There's a bit of confusion as the race radio has announced sprint results for that lap, yet according to the race schedule, the sprint is coming up at the end of this lap with two laps to go. It's a major point of discussion now amongst the officials.

14:50 EDT    Ben Jacques-Maynes has abandoned after giving his wheel to his team-mate Richard England.

14:53 EDT    49mi/13.7mi to go The break has just 35 seconds to one chaser with a mile to go to the real sprint. Tyler Hamilton is in 'no-man's land', while the field is one minute back.

14:56 EDT    50mi/12.7mi to go Now we've got the final intermediate sprint with two laps to go - for real now! Tyler Hamilton sat up, realizing his chase was futile, and is caught by the peloton. One minute to the field and Olson is getting another bike change back to his own machine - after the mechanic fixed that pedal.

14:58 EDT    The skies are starting to get darker again as the riders head out for the penultimate lap. 1'05 to the leaders as High Road is still doing all the work in the field. It might be a bit anticlimactic if this break stays clear and we don't see a big bunch sprint with Lowe and Sivtsou or Henderson and Farrar duking it out for the yellow and the sprint jerseys...

14:59 EDT    This really was the last bonus sprint and here are the results:
1 Justin England (Toyota - United)
2 Tom Danielson (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30)
3 Cameron Evans (Symmetrics)

15:02 EDT    53mi/9.7mi to go A bit of rain could help this break stay clear, as the peloton would have a harder time navigating the wet turns than the nine riders up front would, but it's not coming down yet.

High Road is maintaining a solid 1'05 gap - if they want to reel them in, they'll have to start working on it soon!

15:06 EDT    To re-cap, we have Cameron Evans and Jacob Erker (Symmetrics), Rhys Pollock (GE Trek - Marco Polo), Thomas Danielson (Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30), Aaron Olson (Bissell), Matt Cooke (Health Net p/b Maxxis), Hilton Clarke and Justin England (Toyota - United) and Jared Barrilleaux (Jittery Joe's) off the front and with just over one lap to go and a minute's gap on the field, our stage winner might well come out of this group.

15:08 EDT    The gap is still holding steady for our leaders, and we see Jared Barrilleaux (Jittery Joe's) sitting mid-group and reaching for a gel - we got an email from a friend who tells us Jared is a Cal Polytech graduate, and has moved up into the elite ranks very quickly.

15:10 EDT    55.7mi/7mi to go The leaders are now 1km to the last lap and continuing to work mostly together, but Olson and Cooke have quit working. Back in the field, Rock Racing is putting Fred Rodriguez into position - their Mr. Yuk green jerseys now replaced by a more aesthetically pleasing orange, gold and black design for today.

15:11 EDT    Cam Evans (Symmetrics) attacks the break! The Canadian champion wants this win. He's got Danielson on his wheel.

15:11 EDT    Rock Racing has taken over from High Road the chasing duties in the peloton.

15:13 EDT    The gap is coming down now - just 40 seconds thanks to Rock Racing's help. Evans is caught.

15:14 EDT    Evans is caught and now the break has just 30 seconds with Rock hammering the peloton up the hill.

15:15 EDT    Pollock and Justin England are setting the pace in this break - we're waiting for the next attack... the desperation is increasing in this move.

15:16 EDT    There is a split in the break as the gap falls to 20 seconds now.

15:16 EDT    England attacked - clearly working for Clarke, who is a strong sprinter. England had Pollock with him, but they've been caught by the rest of the break now.

15:17 EDT    The peloton is in sight behind the breakaway and they're suffering now...

15:18 EDT    Pollock wants this - he goes again!

15:19 EDT    59.7mi/3mi to go 15 seconds only for our break which is together again... now Danielson goes!

15:20 EDT    He doesn't get far and Evans launches the counter - there's no time for cat and mouse as the peloton is on their heels! Ten seconds is the gap!

15:21 EDT    Things aren't looking good for our breakaway - some of the riders have been reabsorbed by the peloton, but Evans and Clarke (?) are away - it could be Clarke, it could be England.

15:21 EDT    A new break formed: Rhys Pollock (GE Trek - Marco Polo), Matthew Shriver (Jittery Joe's), Aaron Olson (Bissell), Antonio Colom Mas (Astana), Hilton Clarke and Ivan Stevic (Toyota - United)!

15:22 EDT    Now CSC and Astana have come to the fore driving it.

15:22 EDT    Remnants of the break were caught, new bridgers went across, with a tough uphill finish this could be it!

15:23 EDT    62.1mi/0.6mi to go One km to go! And two riders have a gap - Colom and a CSC rider!

15:24 EDT    Under the 1km to go banner and they don't have it - they're going to get caught by the High Road led peloton with 200m to go!

15:25 EDT    The yellow jersey is up front, but the blue jersey of Henderson makes a big jump!

15:25 EDT    He follows two CSC riders and then gives a big push.... he's going to take it!

15:25 EDT    Henderson takes it ahead of JJ Haedo to get his second stage and secure the points jersey!

15:28 EDT    Team High Road came into this race without a "Major" GC favourite, without much talk, really, about being a factor in the race at all. After a quiet start, they flexed their muscles and put Henderson in yellow, then passed it off to Siutsou and took home not one, but two jerseys as well as three stage wins.

15:33 EDT    Thanks all for tuning into Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Tour de Georgia from Hot-lanta!


1 Gregory Henderson (NZl) Team High Road          
2 Juan José Haedo (Arg) Team CSC                  
3 Andrew Pinfold (Can) Symmetrics Cycling Team 
Final general classification

1 Kanstantin Siutsou (Team High Road)

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