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Tour of Georgia - 2.3

Georgia, USA, April 22-27, 2003

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Complete Live Report

Produced by Kristy Scrymgeour and Jeff Jones, with reporting by Tim Maloney

Stage 3 - April 25: Pine Mountain/Callaway - Rome, 222 km

Start time: 10:00 EDT
Estimated finish time: 15:30 EDT

Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of Stage three of the Tour of Georgia, a 222 km long race from Pine Mountain/Callaway to Rome. Today's stage is long, but it's not too hard in terms of climbs, with the maximum elevation only 415m. The three climbs are: Tally Mountain (km 143), Silver Creek (km 203), and Tower Hill (km 214 and km 218), which is located on the finishing circuit. There are also two intermediate sprints, at LaGrange (km 49.2) and Cedartown (km 179).

The race lead is currently with the Navigators' Henk Vogels, who finished third in yesterday's stage behind Moreno DiBiase and Fred Rodriguez. Vogels will be well protected by his team today, and will be on the lookout for attacks by Chris Horner and Nathan O'Neill, who are just 4 and 5 seconds behind him on GC respectively.

10:00am EDT

The Stage is under way on time, however the course has changed a little due to torrential storms overnight and a tornado warning. The riders were planning to complete three start laps in Calloway Gardens, but this has been reduced to only one lap which will shorten the race by 8km. According to our reporter on the start line, the weather is improving and due to the fact that the race heads north it should get better as the race goes on.

The Italian riders are apparently a little worried about the tornado warning, probably due to the fact that the only tornado they have even seen was in The Wizard of Oz.

On the start line, race leader Henk Vogels has his race face on. He wants another stage win and of course wants to keep the yellow jersey for another day. He is keen to once again put the pressure on Saturn who was challenging him yesterday.

Saturn Team Director Andrzej Bek told Cyclingnews that today its "business as usual", meaning of course that Saturn intends to reciprocate by putting the pressure back onto Vogels and the Navigators team.

10:15am EDT

The riders have now finished the naturalised laps and are out on the course proper. Henk Vogels broke a spoke in the neutral lap and needed a wheel change. Other than that, the pace is piano (soft). The roads are wet, but the weather is holding out.

Cyclingnews also chatted with Phil Zajicek (Saturn) this morning who made the comment that "it was kind of strange for us yesterday, as it was the first time we have been in a race this season without the yellow jersey". Other teams however are of the opinion that the Saturn team is a little bit too confident and almost cocky. In saying that though, there have been a lot of predictions that Horner is looking the strongest and is considered the favourite for the tour win.

10:42am EDT 200km to go

There has been an attack by Lionel Syne (Webcor). He has about 30 seconds on the field and the bunch is letting him go. No one is chasing and no one cares.

Syne is a native Belgian known for his fierce sprint. His greatest victories to date are two stage wins at the 2002 Tour du Faso. This is a brave move by Syne as he has a long way to go. He will no doubt be looking for somebody to join him soon.

11:04am EDT 174km to go

Syne has increased his lead to 4'30" and he has a lone chaser at 2 minutes. Matt Dubberley (Sierra Nevada) is the guy trying to bridge up to him, he now has 2'30" on the peloton. Syne is riding very strongly and looking good out on the road.

11:09am EDT

Riders are passing Rosemont Elementary School, where there are hundreds of children on the side of the road cheering them on. The riders are cheering back at them, it is quite a scene. The weather is still getting better with every kilometre on the road to Rome.

11:18am EDT 168km to go

Syne has increased his lead to 7 minutes. He is leader on the road. Dubberley is 3 minutes behind Syne, and 4 minutes up on the peloton. The riders are going past a town called La Grange. 7UP/Maxxis and Navigators are riding piano at the front of the bunch, but there is no chase.

11:27am EDT 164km to go

Syne, who began the day 2'10" down on GC has picked up the first sprint for points at La Grange.

11:32am EDT 159km to go

Syne is really having a strong ride out there, he is gaining time on Dubberley and the field. To add to this, the peloton has been stopped at a railway crossing and therefore lost another 1 to 2 minutes on Syne. It appears that Syne may have a gap of about 10 minutes right now. They are likely going to have to naturalise Syne and Dubberley to make up for the interference.

11:56 EDT 140km to go

Jonathan Vaughters has now attacked the bunch and has a gap of 1'15". The bunch hasn't even seemed to notice that he has gone, as they are still riding piano. Meanwhile, Syne has now got about 11 minutes on the peloton and 10 minutes on Vaughters. Dubberley is still in between, 4 minutes behind Syne and seems to be suffering a little.

12:01 EDT

7UP/Maxxis and Navigators still sitting on the front chatting about Saturn! The rest of the riders are basically just riding along enjoying the countryside, answering to the calls of nature and taking a drink. It's likely that the action won't begin until the first KOM which comes in about 70km.

Syne still having a very strong ride. He told his team director this morning that he hoped for rain, which I suppose is natural for a Belgian. There is a slight tailwind today and so far has been fairly flat. It is starting to get a bit hillier as they head for the KOM.

12:19 EDT/133k to go

As the peloton goes through the first feed zone, Syne's lead is at 15'30", and the group is still disinterested in chasing it down. Dubberley appears to be fading a little as he now sits at 9'00" in front of the bunch. Vaughters is making good time and has opened up a gap of 6'00". Vaughters should make contact with Dubberley soon, and they will try their hand together at catching up with Syne. Perhaps the field will begin to move now that they have had lunch.

Syne looks very strong, but the peloton seems very confident that this is no real threat to them. It's risks like this that sometimes work, and if Vaughters and Dubberley can join Syne down the road, the move has a better chance at staying away. You should never underestimate the power of the bunch, however, once they decide to act.

12:33pm EDT 129km to go

Peloton has finished its fine dining at the feed zone and maybe want Syne for dessert, however Syne might have something to say about this as he now has a lead of 16'50".

Dubberley is now 3'50 behind Syne and Vaughters 10'50" behind. After the feed zone John Lieswyn (7UP/Maxxis) has attacked, but was quickly shut down by Rabobank. The peloton seems to be moving a little more quickly now. Syne is cruising along at about 35kph.

12:49pm EDT 114km to go

Vaughters has now caught Dubberley and together they have 11 minutes on the group. Syne's advantage is beginning to fall slightly as he currently sits at 16 minutes.

Our man on the scene, Tim Maloney, just spoke with Kirk Willett, the Director for Prime Alliance to get some thoughts. Vaughters attacked with the hopes of encouraging the Navigators team to ride more aggressively and opened up a slight gap. From there he just stayed at a nice training pace, and the gap continued to build so it looked as though he could put some serious time into the bunch. Vaughters, who crashed in the prologue began the day 1'15" on GC.

Right now, Navigators is riding tempo on the front and preventing sporadic attacks from Saturn and 7UP/Maxxis from succeeding.

This move could become more dangerous than expected by the peloton. Vaughters has proven to be one of the better time trialers in the world, although there is still over 100k to go.

1:02pm EDT 90km to go

The time gaps remain the same, but the pace in the peloton has picked up considerably now with Navigators beginning to organise a more definitive chase.

The thunderstorms are beginning to brew and head in the direction of the riders. These spring storms are a little different that Syne would be used to seeing in Belgium.

1:21pm EDT 84k to go

The gaps are starting to fall now. Vaughters and Dubberley are now 5'30 behind Syne, and 8'50" ahead of the chasing peloton. Syne's overall advantage on the group is now 14'10" and falling. Syne still appears to be moving along at a good pace, however and has a nice tailwind on his side.

Navigators is still doing the bulk of the chase, which is mostly their responsibility to protect the yellow leader's jersey that sits on Henk Vogels' back. We are approaching the Tally Mountain KOM point.

1:40pm EDT 70k to go

Navigators now seem disinterested in protecting the jersey and has relinquished the hard chase. Saturn has picked up the slack, and is now at the front trying to bring back the three riders that continue to maintain a considerable gap. We have just completed the first KOM where Saturn Team Director Andrjez Bek decided they didn't want to let Vaughters go up the road unchallenged.

The sky is darkening to the Northeast, in the direction of the moving peloton. We have just received a weather report, and it is indeed raining in the finishing town of Rome. Syne currently has a gap of 10'30" on the main group, with the duo of Vaughters and Dubberley 4'15" behind him.

1:58pm EDT

After looking at the radar in NW Georgia, there is an extremely powerful storm moving through the area.

2:24pm EDT 41k to go

The storms seem to be breaking up, and it looks as though the weather has affected Syne more than the main group as his once gigantic lead has now been whittled down to 3'15" on the peloton. Vaughters and Dubberley were absorbed by the field shortly after the second feed zone.

It now looks to be just a matter of time until Syne is caught himself at which point the counterattacks will almost certainly begin as we approach the second sprint of the day in Cedartown.

2:36pm EDT 35k to go

Syne has now been caught just after the sprint in the town of Cedartown. A valiant effort indeed, Syne was away solo for 160k. Syne held on to take the sprint points just ahead of a closing peloton and Henk Vogels. Danny Pate (Prime Alliance) grabbed the third place point.

Schroeder Iron drove the chase hard in the final kilometres to Syne trying to set up Miguel Meza for the sprint points, but with no success. Vogels continued to gain valuable bonus seconds to pad his lead before tomorrow's stage when the roads begin to climb considerably.

The rains have diminished but the roads are wet. The threat of more storms is unlikely for the remainder of the race. With 35k to go on the road to Rome, the riders must be cautious on the slick roads that cross six railroad crossings from here on out.

2:48pm EDT 28k to go

A solo attack by Adham Sbeih (Sierra Nevada-Clif Bar) has gone away. He currently has about 1'30" on the main group with Steve Larsen (Webcor) and Greg Henderson (7UP/Maxxis) trying to bridge up.

Sbeih is an excellent time trialer as is Steve Larsen who is an accomplished triathlete and former Motorola roadie. If they make contact they could pull away from the field. Sbeih is 1'30" on GC, and Larsen began the day 26 seconds back. Henderson, who was third in the opening prologue, began today 1'48" down on GC.

The peloton is now on the narrow and windy Lake Creek Rd. just into Floyd County.

3:05pm EDT 20k to go

Sbeih is beginning to cramp, perhaps due to the length of this race. As mentioned yesterday, those who race the domestic calendar in the U.S. rarely see races of this distance, so it could once again favour those with European miles in their legs like yesterday. Sbeih has dropped off the pace, and Henderson and Larsen continue on together.

We have just gone through the Silver Creek KOM in Boozeville, which was taken by Larsen, who is just pounding away now. The duo only has a gap of about 20 seconds on the field now, and should be caught in the next 5k or so.

We are 203k into the race and about 10k from the town of Rome where the riders will complete three laps of a two mile circuit around town.

All odds are on another field sprint finish which would favour the Italian teams of Fred Rodriguez (Vini Caldirola-Sidermec) and Moreno DiBiase (Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave) who are the two most notable sprinters with the endurance in their legs. Vogels would also be a contender along with speedsters Charles Dionne (Saturn), Antonio Cruz (US Postal-Berry Floor)

There are two KOM's on the finishing circuit at the top of Tower Hill on laps one and two. It is a short incline of only .25k

3:22pm 4k to go

The group has come back together and Chris Horner (Saturn) has attacked on the last KOM, taking Rodriguez with him.

They only have a gap of about 50 meters are being brought back to the peloton rather quickly however.

3:27pm 2k to go

The group is now together and Kevin de Weert (Rabobank) attacks, Michael Barry (US Postal) goes after him.

The pace from the field behind is blistering and it doesn't look like this break will succeed either.

3:30pm 1k to go

The finish is slightly up hill, and the roads are wet from the sporadic rains in the area, this is going to come down to a field sprint. There are about 50 riders remaining in the front group and the winner is...

...Freddy Rodriguez over David Clinger(Prime Alliance)


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