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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Tour de Georgia - 2.3

Georgia, USA, April 20-25, 2004

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Stage 5 - April 23: Dalton - Dahlonega, 224.3 km

Complete live report

Commentary by Kristy Scrymgeour, with additional reporting from Tim Maloney

10:14 EDT   
Welcome to stage five of the Dodge Tour of Georgia. After a jaw dropping day yesterday where Lance won the downhill sprint in Rome and later in the day won the challenging time trial to take the leaders jersey, we arrive at perhaps the toughest day of the tour.

Today riders start in Dalton and head to Dahlonega for a 224.4km day in the saddle and complete the famous three gap route.

The race has just started as the riders do a lap of the town and head out on the road to Fort Mountain, the first KOM of the day.

10:22 EDT   
The riders had a long transfer this morning and actually had to have a police escort to the race so that they made the start. Sounds exactly the sort of thing that happens in Europe. This race is becoming more European every day.

Today particularly will be reminiscent of the Tour de France as the riders climb Wolfpen Gap, which climbs to 1019meters/3345 ft.

10:24 EDT    10km/214.3km to go
There has been an attack. Navigators are ready to race today. They have sent Jeff Louder up the road and he has been joined by Jacky Durand (Landbouwkrediet – Colnago) and an rider from Barloworld.

10:26 EDT   
The trio were quickly reeled in and a counter has gone up with road with 10 guys in it. It looks like its going to be a very active day today. "It's not going to cakewalk for Lance today," as Bobby Julich said this morning.

10:30 EDT   
When Cyclingnews caught up with Bobby Julich (CSC) today, he was disappointed with his time trial yesterday and said he blew his gear selection. He rode a 41/21 for his lowest gear and really needed something smaller.

Armstrong used a 39/23 and needed it as he was climbing out of the saddle.

10:33 EDT    12km/212.3km to go
Piil attacked but was brought back by Pavel Padrnos (USPS), the a larger group attacked. In the group was Admamson (Barloworld), Louder (Navigators), Mike Sayers (Health Net), Will Frischkorn (Colavita) and two Ofoto riders. The Ofoto team have been very active in this race and continue to be so.

10:34 EDT   
The break has been caught, and another counter comes immediately.

10:40 EDT    20km/204.3km to go
We are now only five kilometers from the sprint now and the riders in the group are mainly sprinters. In the break are Jacky Durand (Colnago), Chris Wherry (Health Net), Henk Vogels (Navigators), Alex Candelario (Jelly Belly), Enrico Degano (Barloworld), Jason McCartney (Health Net).

10:41 EDT   
Postal is on the front of the peloton setting tempo at this point.

Many people have been asking about Henk Vogels and how he is after his crash last year. He is happy and feeling pretty good. He said it was a tough come back especially as he also crashed in training as he was recovering. But he has been racing in Europe and says that has been good for him.

10:46 EDT   
Correction to the break. The Barloworld rider is Stefan Adamsson, not Degano.

Adamsson just won the intermediate sprint from McCartney and Durand.
As the race starts climbing Ford Mountain, the break has a one minute lead.

10:47 EDT    28km/196.3km to go
Postal is on the front with the Peach Jersey tucked in behind them. It's kind of like a dress rehearsal for the Tour de France.

10:55 EDT    30km/194.3km to go
The gap is up to 2 minutes. The guys in the break are looking pretty good as they head up the mountain. Candelario is hanging onto the back.

10:57 EDT   
The break is about half way up the 13km climb right now. Back in the peloton, Damon Kluck (USPS) is setting the pace on the front with Lance sitting in seventh position.

11:00 EDT   
Chris Wherry (Health Net) is the highest in GC out of the group. If this break stretches out further, he could become the leader on the road.
Jason McCartney had a great time trial yesterday, but he lost time on previous stages so he is not up there on GC.

11:08 EDT    37km/187.3km to go
The break is 4km from the top of the climb now and Chris Wherry continues to push the pace up the climb. Postal is still riding tempo on the front. It's a steep climb and a tough way to start a 224km race!

11:09 EDT   
We spoke with Health Net DS, Jeff Corbett, who said his plan was to send guys up the road early so that his GC riders, John Lieswyn and Danny Pate, could sit in comfortably in the bunch and save themselves for later in the race.

11:10 EDT   
The gap sits at 2'10" as they approach the first of the four KOM's today.

11:14 EDT   
An update of Craig Lewis, the young TIAA Cref rider (US National Team) who fell in the time trial yesterday. He has a couple of broken ribs and a broken arm and was unconscious for a bit yesterday. Last night he was in good spirits and feeling ok. He will stay in hospital for a few days to recover. It is still not known how the car that hit him got onto the course yesterday.

11:21 EDT   
The sprint results for the Fort Mountain (not Ford like I called it before) are:
McCartney (Health Net), Adamsson (Barloworld), Durand (Colnago), Wherry (Health Net) and Vogels (Navigators).

11:24 EDT   
The descent is not as steep as the climb, but its still fairly twisty. When they reach the bottom they go over a few foothills and then the road is rolling until they reach the next sprint in Ellijay at 72km.
The crowd is already huge in Ellijay at the moment waiting for the race to come through.

11:26 EDT   
The weather today is in the upper 60's and overcast. A perfect day for racing. If the guys didn't have to concentrate on the race, it is also beautiful scenery here in nothern Georgia.

11:31 EDT    48km/176.3km to go
At the bottom of the descent the break now has 3'05" on the peloton with Postal still setting the pace behind.

11:42 EDT    60km/164.3km to go
The gap has increased to 4'00" now which makes Chris Wherry the new leader on the road. The guys at the front actually have a lot of horse power and the Health Net team are really pushing the pace.

11:48 EDT   
A question was asked about how Health Net are saving their riders by sending their domestiques up the road.

If they send their riders up the road, the race settles down a little in the bunch. It is more of a steady ride and they are not obligated to be anywhere near the front. The responsibility is on the leading team, in this case USPS to do the work to bring the break back. The Health Net guys and the other teams who have riders in the break can just sit in behind Postal and relax a little.

11:52 EDT    67km/157.3km to go
The race has just gone through the sprint at Elijay. Durand took the sprint from McCartney and Wherry.
The gap to the peloton is now up to 5'10".
Alex Candelario for a rear flat and changed it just after the sprint. He is now back in the break.

11:56 EDT   
Back in the peloton, the Postal team is riding a steady tempo, looking at the scenery and practicing their French!
Tomorrow, Lance is expecting a special visitor, Madame Sheryl Crow. They will be helicoptered off the top of Brasstown Bald, the finishing mountain, after the finish.

12:01 EDT   
The break is now 6'00" in front of the peloton and the gap continues to grow.

We talked with Ed Beamon, DS of Navigators, who says his plan is similar to that of Health Net. He has Henk Vogels up the road to let his GC riders rest back in the peloton. Coincidentally, this is the same road that Vogels lost his yellow jersey to Saturn last year, so Beamon joked that Vogels is trying to purge his memories of last year.

12:04 EDT   
In the General classification, Chris Baldwin and Phil Zajicek sit 8th and 11th at the moment and Beamon is hoping for them to have good rides today. He said they rode well in the time trial yesterday, but it was their first ride on their new Colnago time trial bikes and their positions weren't properly dialed in yet.

Today, Beamon has Massimo Bartolini, importer of Colnago into the US, in his team car. Bartolini is especially happy at the moment to have two Colnago's in the break.

12:05 EDT   
Chris Horner also said yesterday was only his second ride on his new Lemond TT bike yesterday. That compared with the CSC team who were doing 120km training rides on their TT bikes at training camp in January.

12:15 EDT   
People are asking as to whether Postal can bring this back and if they look worried at all.

Postal will just ride tempo at the moment and they wouldn't be too worried. There are still a lot of mountains and a lot of time left in the race. At the moment the gap is 5'30" and Postal has Tony Cruz sitting on the front. Also up their doing to dutiful work on the domestique are Daniel Rincon, a very talented young climber, and Mike Creed, who is really doing well in his first big race with Postal.

12:17 EDT    80km/144.3km to go
They are riding through apple country and have just passed the feed zone. They are heading up a long wide drag right now and the break is still working hard.

12:19 EDT    80km/144.3km to go
On the first climb today Cipollini was dropped and his team went back to pick him up. He got back on as the climb flattened out at the top. This is great training for Cipollini for the Giro. This year the Giro is quite hard at the beginning and has a lot of climbing, so this is perfect preparation for him.

12:20 EDT   
The race is coming up to the Fanin County line with still another 60 kilometers or so until the first of the three gaps, Woody Gap.

12:24 EDT   
Woody gap is a cat 3 climb and climbs to 975 meters/3200ft. It is the following climb, Neel's Gap that will be the decider today. After the descent of Woody Gap, there is a feed zone and from there Neel's gap begins. There is a very Euro style hairpin on this climb after which the road gets narrow and steep. This is probably the place that Horner will make his move today.

12:35 EDT   
The race is getting a little hillier as the course heads further east. The gap is back up to 6'00". The break is still working well up front, but with these mountains coming up, six minutes can be reeled in pretty quickly, especially as the guys up front have been doing all the hard work all day. They all know they are pawns in the game, but are doing their job well setting up the stage for their GC riders in the peloton.

12:38 EDT   
There are hundreds of people on Woody Gap waiting for the race to come by. Cyclists are riding up there trying to get to the top before the race does and spectators are set up with their wine and their picnic lunch all the way up the climb.

12:39 EDT   
The one thing with this race is that the roads are perfect. Many of the riders have commented on how nice and smooth the roads are. When they pass into Union county, just before the climbing starts, the roads get a little rougher, but compared to roads elsewhere in the country, the roads are pristine.

12:44 EDT   
There are signs on the side of the road saying "Allez y'all", which sets the scene perfectly. The scenery through the climbs is just gorgeous. It is tree covered valleys and forest all the way through. Along with the perfect weather, it is a pleasant place to watch a bike race.

12:49 EDT   
Previously I wrote that Neels Gap would be the hard climb, but I was in fact talking about Wolfpen. I have also had emails from readers who train on these roads who agree that Wolfpen is the hard one. It is particularly hard because it climbs straight up out of the descent from Neels and it is much narrower than the other two climbs. Wolfpen is the climb with the switch back that is perhaps the point Horner will attack.

12:59 EDT    126km/98.3km to go
The gap is still at 5'30" as they head into Union County. They are very close to starting Woody Gap. Postal still man the front of the peloton keeping a steady pace.

13:00 EDT   
A lot of people have been asking why Lance isn't wearing the World Championship stripes on his jersey. We are not sure, but we will be sure to find out.

13:03 EDT   
When the cyclists pass over woody gap, they are crossing the Appalachian Trail where it bisects with the highway. At the bottom of the descnt, the feed zone is in an area known locally as the 'Rock Pile'. They travel along the bottom for a bit then head up Neel's Gap. At the crest of Neel's they pass over the Appalchian Trail again, further north of their first crossing. There is a 'climbing station' there where people who do the hike will reload supplies before they finish the Trail. The descent is long and at the bottom they hit the 'hairpin' which is an off camber turn that invariably can cause havoc if one does not know what to expect. This is where the road narrows and has a few classic hairpins in the climb. This comes up to Wolfpen Gap. Apparently several local motorcyclists have lost their lives descending this climb by missing a corner. The backside of Wolfpen is basic. They then turn to reclimb Woody Gap, and after descending, there is actually a little bit of a climb after the Rock Pile before the run into Dahlonega.

13:16 EDT   
To answer some reader questions. Lance Armstrong won the World Championships in Oslo in 1993. He was one of the youngest World Champions ever. He is allowed to wear the World champion stripes, not the jersey, on his sleeves if he chooses.

13:19 EDT   
The race is on Woody Gap now, the first of the three Gaps.

13:25 EDT   
We're having problems getting race radio through the mountains, so coverage will be a bit sparse. We'll do the best we can.

13:32 EDT   
After the three gaps, the riders go up the final part of Woody gap one more time before the descent to the finsh. Coming into town the road is rolling, they come in to the town square and the make an immediate (and somewhat narrow) left turn, and then it's a little downhill to the finish.

13:36 EDT   
To clear things up about Lance and his stripes, we have just heard from Lancearmstrong.com. Here is their response:
"We all know that Barry Floor is the presenting sponsor for the USPS Pro Cycling Team, they have an American subsidiary called ALLOC. The jerseys were a special small run made just for racing in the US, they did not make special jerseys for LA, and Eki with the WC stripes on them."

13:37 EDT    138km/86.3km to go
We have a time gap from the break to the peloton. They still hold 5'10" on the chasing bunch as they climb Woody Gap.

13:43 EDT   
Also to clear another question up. Lance Armstrong was one of the youngest world champions, but not the youngest. Karel Kaers (Belgium) won it in 1934 at age 20.

13:45 EDT   
Timmy Duggan, the new leader in the young rider classification, has just had a wheel change, but is back in the group.

13:50 EDT    143km/81.3km to go
The lead riders are now 1km from the top of Woody Gap. Postal is still controlling the peloton and Chris Wherry is doing a lot of the work on the front of the break.

13:56 EDT   
Apparently there is a ride is this area called the "Six Gap Century" held in late September each year. The ride begins and ends in Dahlonega and includes six mountains--Neels, Jacks, Unicoi, Hogpen (the steepest by far), Wolfpen and Woody. Last year's ride drew more than 1,750 entrants.
The Jittery Joe's team, being from this area, rode the race last year and apparently Cesar Grajales blew everyone away.
The Jittery Joe's are really hoping that Grajales can have a good ride here and this is their home territory, especially tomorrow.

13:58 EDT    145km/79.3km to go
The race has just gone over Woody Gap. There is still a gap of 5'00" to the peloton and the break are working really well together. McCartney, Durand, Wherry and Adamsson seem to be the strongest in the group at the moment.

13:59 EDT   
Postal is still on the front of the peloton. On the climb they had to slow down a little to wait for Mike Creed when he got a flat.

13:59 EDT   
Over the KOM, McCartney took the sprint, followed by Durand, Wherry and Adamsson.

14:13 EDT   
The race will probably continue in the same vein until we hit Wolfpen Gap. This is where the action will occur. Right now the time split from the break to the peloton sits at around 5'00".

14:19 EDT   
As many readers will know, Jacky Durand (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) is a specialist at long breakaways, often termed "suicide breaks" because they never succeed. Well, almost never. Durand made a name for himself in 1992 when he won the Tour of Flanders in a 200+ km breakaway with Thomas Wegmuller, the peloton never catching sight of them. Since then, Durand has made it a trademark, and he's always one of the first riders to attack in any race.

He's won stages in the Tour de France, the French championship (twice), Paris-Tours and numerous other races. He's certainly no slouch on the bike.

14:35 EDT   
Having a great race today and a great tour is Jason McCartney. His time trial yesterday would have to be considered one of his best results. Last year he won the Joe Martin Memorial stage race, Snake Alley Criterium and stages 1 & 4 at the Gateway Cup. He also came third in the elite National time trial championships. He is still working hard up in the break for his Health Net team.

14:36 EDT   
The race is on Neel's Gap now and its starting to split up. The time gap from the break to the peloton is at 4'35" and the Postal Team have picked up the pace in the chase.

14:38 EDT   
The peloton is slowly losing riders. There has been no attacking in the peloton. The slight increase in pace from Postal is enough to split up the group. Cipollini has fallen off the pace and is sitting in the third group at the moment.

14:41 EDT   
Unfortunately for US Postal-Berry Floor fans, this Tour de Georgia will be the first and last time that Lance will be racing here (in Georgia!) in a USPS jersey. A few months ago, there were rumours alluding to the US Postal Service pulling out its sponsorship at the end of the year, and this was confirmed by USPS spokesman Gerry McKiernan today. The Postal Service has decided to go "in another direction" with its marketing plan according to McKeirnan, after eight years of sponsorship.
On the other hand, it's highly likely that a new sponsor will step in to fill the breach, and presenting sponsor Berry Floor has already indicated that it will increase its commitment. According to our sources in Berry Floor, the presence of the best known cyclist in the world meant that Berry Floor more than doubled its sales in 2003, the first year of sponsorship of the USPS team.

14:44 EDT   
Timothy Duggan who wears the best young rider's jersey has had a run of bad luck in today's stage. He flatted on the first climb, then his chain broke. Finally he had to have a bike change. His teammate, Colby Pearce actually gave him his bike.

15:02 EDT    175km/49.3km to go
Apparently there are about 60 riders still with the yellow jersey chasing the breakaway. The gap is also coming down to the break and it will all be decided now as they start up Wolfpen.

15:07 EDT   
Wolpen climbs to 1019m/3139ft and is narrow and steep with switchbacks. Very Euro style. From the top there is only 40km remaining in the race which is still undulating terrain with the top of Woody Gap in between.

15:08 EDT   
We spoke to the KOM leader Mark Walters this morning who is pleased with his race so far.
"It's exciting for me," he said. "I've never had a climber's jersey in a race before. I'm just going to try my best to get ahead of the game early and try ot grab some points, while Lance's team and CSC patrol the race."

15:10 EDT    186km/38.3km to go
The race is coming down Wolfpen now. We can't tell what has happened on the climb yet. The mountains are breaking everything up.

15:16 EDT    195km/29.3km to go
There are two riders off the front right now. One is Jason McCartney and another rider. They broke away from the lead group on Wolfpen.

15:18 EDT   
It is now McCartney solo 1'40" in front of Adamsson and 2"40" back to pack. The rest of the break have been caught by the peloton.

15:18 EDT   
This is an amazing ride by McCartney. After his effort in stage two and his time trial yesterday, this is really a great race for him.

15:22 EDT   
McCartney has a huge fan base of people writing in to show their support and he is certainly putting on a show for all those people. He still leads and has gained time on the descent as the peloton was still climbing. His lead is now 3'25". What a great ride.

15:26 EDT    205km/19.3km to go
McCartney has 3'25" to the field and 2'45" to to Adamsson at this point. Back in the peloton a CSC rider just attacked as they have 1km remaning to the top of Woody Gap but has been chased down by Postal.

15:28 EDT   
Armstrongs group has split into two and are heading down the descent, McCartney has a really good advantage here and could win this race.

15:30 EDT   
Apparently back on the climb, Horner attacked at the bottom of Wolfpen and started catching riders from the break. The break had split up by this stage because McCartney attacked hard and blew it apart.
Horner was third on the road behind McCartney and Adamsson but before long Postal picked it up and reeled in everyone except for Adamsson and McCartney.

15:31 EDT   
It looks like Adamsson is going to get caught on the descent from Woody gap, but McCartney is still looking strong.

15:34 EDT   
It was Julich from CSC who attacked at the top of Woody. Armstrong countered which split up the group and he led the remaining riders over the top and down the descent.

15:35 EDT    210km/14.3km to go
Adamsson has been caught by the peach jersey group.

15:41 EDT   
McCartney has 2'20" now on the chasing peloton. On one of the small hills heading into town Julich attacked and Armstrong went to the front himself and reeled him in. Now three Postal guys are on the front chasing hard.

15:43 EDT   
McCartney is 10'05" down on GC, so Postal doesn't need to catch him. They will just be trying to keep the pace high so as to keep the gap down. There is a very good chance that he can win this race.

15:48 EDT    219km/5.3km to go
The gap is now 2'30" and things have settled down back in the chase group. McCartney is still riding hard and doesn't have far to go to victory, but seems to be suffering in the cross wind.

Webcor is attacking from behind and so is Ofoto.

15:49 EDT   
Chris Horner (Webcor) is attacking and things are unsettled back in the chase group. They are not going to let McCartney take the victory without a fight.

15:49 EDT   
The gap is falling between McCartney and the bunch. It is now 2'00".

15:52 EDT    222km/2.3km to go
They can still catch him as he is getting tired but it's going to be close.

15:53 EDT    223km/1.3km to go
McCartney is getting close to the finish line, and he is 30" in the lead.

15:54 EDT    224.5km/-0.2km to go
It so close now but it looks like he is going to do it! This is amazing.

15:55 EDT    224.3km/0km to go

15:55 EDT   
McCartney has taken the win, what a fantastic ride!

15:56 EDT   
The sprint is coming is for third place, its going to be close. There is only a group of about 30 riders left.

15:58 EDT   
The have crossed the line. It's Salvatore Commesso (saeco) in second place and Charles Dionne (Webcor) in third.

15:58 EDT   
We just caught up with McCartney who looks exhausted. "It was really tough out there," he said.

Bried results
1 Jason McCartney (Health Net)
2 Salvatore Commesso (Saeco) at 0'30"
3 Charles Dionne (Webcor)