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Tour de Georgia - 2.3

Georgia, USA, April 20-25, 2004

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Stage 6 - April 24: Athens - Hiawassee/Young Harris, 206.4 km

Complete live report

Commentary by Kristy Scrymgeour, with additional reporting from Tim Maloney

10:05 EDT   
Welcome to Stage Six of the Tour de Georgia. Today we begin in Athens, the home town of the Jittery Joe's team, and travel north to cross Hogpen Gap at 135km, finally arriving at the highest point in Georgia, Brasstown Bald, after 206km of racing.

Yesterday was a tough day on the road, but today could be even tougher. The first KOM is 11.2km and is said to be even harder than any of yesterday's climbs, not to mention the mountain top finish which reaches 1426meters/4679ft in elevation. Riders today will climb a total of 4,605 meters.

After yesterday's stage, where Jason Mccartney rode brilliantly to win, the top ten riders on GC are

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor    17.02.19
2 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC                                               0.24
3 Chris Horner (USA) Webcor Builders                                      0.51
4 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC                                             1.06
5 Brian Vandborg (Den) Team CSC                                           1.30
6 Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor     1.31
7 Christopher Baldwin (USA) Navigators Insurance                          1.37
8 Eric Wohlberg (Can) Sierra Nevada Cycling                               1.39
9 Phil Zajicek (USA) Navigators Insurance                                 2.32
10 George Hincapie (USA) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor       2.37 

10:11 EDT   
Thousands of people came out to the Classic City, Athens, Georgia this morning to see off the race. At least a third of the spectators were from out of state and had traveled just to watch this stage. The weather is fine with temperatures currently in the mid 70's.

10:14 EDT   
A lot of riders have put 27 tooth rear cogs on their bikes today and the riders who didn't are going to be in for quite a shock. The last five kilometers of the race are very steep.

We talked to Cesar Grajales (Jittery Joe's) this morning who lives in this area and has been training on this climb twice a week to get ready for the race. He said it was very steep and that he knew the exact place to attack, but of course he wasn't giving away any of his secrets.

10:16 EDT   
We also talked to Chris Horner (Webcor) who said he attacked too late yesterday. "The place to attack was in between the last two climbs," he said. "If we had gone over the climb with just Lance [and not his teammates], things would have been different."

10:24 EDT   
We also talked to Daniel Rincon (USPS) today who has been doing a lot of work for Lance Armstrong in the hills. He is really enjoying his time in the US. It is his first race in the US racing with Lance and he says it is very special for him, especially because they have the leader's jersey.

10:29 EDT    18km/188km to go
The race has been very active going out of town with constant attacks and they have been riding at 50km/h from the start.

CSC, Colnago, Ofoto and Sierra Nevada have been very active but they are being chased of course by Postal and also Health Net who are now riding to protect McCartney and Jittery Joe's who want Grajales in good position for the climbs.

10:33 EDT   
There is a break of ten riders including Eriksen (CSC), Durand (Colnago), Hincapie (USPS), Power (Navigators), Fraser (Health Net), Ollerenshaw (Jelly Belly), Lawler (Jittery Joe's), Schneider (Jittery Joe's), Stewart (Ofoto) and Rosenbarger (Jitter Joe's).

They are riding hard, but so is the chasing bunch behind and it looks like they will get caught soon.

10:35 EDT   
The break got out to 17 seconds but is now down to 5 seconds and falling.

10:41 EDT   
The break has been reeled in now and Colavita are attacking. There are a lot of attacks on these wide open roads. The roads are slightly rolling at the moment and there is a tailwind which is helping to move them along pretty quickly.

10:52 EDT    35km/171km to go
There is another break of eight riders now on the rolling hills. Russel Hamby (Sierra Nevada) attacked solo and Eriksen (CSC) bridged to him taking with him Louder (Navigators), Fraser (Health Net), Ellis (Jelly Belly), Hartley (Jittery Joe's) and Saunders (Ofoto).

10:53 EDT   
The gap is at 20 seconds and another rider has bridged to the break. The rider is from the Saeco team.

Postal is chasing hard up a small rise. They have no-one in the break.

10:57 EDT    40km/166km to go
Three riders have bridged to the break, which is now at 30 seconds and stabilizing. The three new riders are James Mattis (Webcor), Ivan Ravaioli (Barloworld) and Alessio Galletti (Domina).

10:59 EDT    42km/164km to go
The break now has one minute to the peloton as the riders go through horse country heading toward the hills. It looks like Postal is happy to let it stay out there at this point.

11:07 EDT   
To explain what I meant previously when I said that most of the riders have a 27 on their bikes, I was talking about the easiest gear on the rear cog of the bike. A normal gear ratio would be a 23 as the easiest gear and a 12 as the hardest at the back. It is the number of teeth on the cog, the more teeth the easier the gear. To go up a very steep climb like Brasstown Bald, it is better to have a small gear so that you can keep somewhat of a rythm going up the climb.

11:11 EDT    50km/156km to go
The break is now at 2 minutes. There is also an update to the break. Jacky Durand (Colnago) is also in there and there is no Webcor rider in there. Jittery Joe's rider Rosenbarger and Mattis (Webcor) just tried to bridge to the break but they didn't make it and have been swallowed up by the field.

11:13 EDT   
Three minutes is the gap now and these guys are riding hard up front. Postal is once again manning the front of the peloton setting tempo.

11:20 EDT   
For an update of Craig Lewis, the young TIAA Cref rider who was hit by a car in the time trial on Thursday. He is recovering well in hospital. He has a few broken ribs and a fracture in his leg and jaw, but he is in good spirits and his parents are with him.

11:27 EDT    60km/146km to go
The gap is now up to 3'45" as they head to the first Maxxis sprint line. They have 8km remaning to the sprint which is in Gainsville, Georgia. The old pro's in the break are really driving it to get the maximum out of it before the hills. At this rate they could have eight minutes before the first climb.

11:31 EDT    67km/139km to go
Another update on the break, Todd Herriot (Colavita) is also in the break, he has been there from the start. The gap has now dropped a little and sits at 3'20" with 5km remaining until the sprint.

11:33 EDT   
The sprint will be interesting because Gord Fraser is there and if he takes the sprint he will be on equal points with Ivan Dominguez. There is another sprint at 110km which will give Fraser the chance to go ahead of Dominguez in the sprint points.

11:34 EDT   
Colavita do have Herriott up there who will try to take the points from Fraser, but Fraser is the better sprinter. What Herriott might do is attack before the sprint.

11:37 EDT    72km/134km to go
Fraser has just taken the sprint from Durand and Saunders. He really didn't sprint, he just rode tempo at the front of the break to take the points.

11:44 EDT    74km/132km to go
Alessio Galletti (Domina Vacanze) is the best placed rider in the break,
lying 20th at 3'58. It doesn't look like he will become the leader on the road though, as the gap is still dropping and is now at 3'10. US Postal are setting tempo on the front of the peloton with Lance sitting in 5th wheel, they are simply keeping the gap under control.

11:52 EDT    80km/126km to go
The gap is starting to go up again with Galletti, Eriksen and Durand pushing the pace. It is back up to 3'45" now, and Galletti is nearing being leader on the road.

12:01 EDT    85km/121km to go
Matt Dubberly (Sierra Nevada) has just abandoned the race.
The break continue to work hard together with Galletti having somthing to ride for. He is almost Maillot Jaune virtual.

12:08 EDT    90km/116km to go
Coming up in another 20km is the second Maxxis sprint line in Cleveland, Georgia. Right now Fraser is the virtual sprint leader on the road having equaled his points with Dominguez in the last sprint. He will be looking to take more points in the next sprint to ensure that lead. That is his reason for being in the break today.

12:12 EDT   
It will be an exciting battle when we hit the mountains today. CSC have Voigt, Julich and Vandborg to work with and will be on the attack to try to take the lead away from Armstrong. Chris Horner (Webcor) will definitely attack, most likely on the second climb of the day as he has already said he will not settle for third place. His disadvantage is that he doesn't have as strong a team as Postal and CSC in the hills, although his team will be protecting him as much as possible until then.

12:13 EDT    95km/111km to go
The gap has fallen again to 3'20" with Postal determined not to let it get too far out.

12:18 EDT   
There is something strange going on in the peloton. Francesco Secchiari (Domina Vacanze) is collaborating in the chase. His teammate up ahead is Galletti, who would become race leader on the road if the gap stretches out, so it is a mystery as to why he is helping with the chase.

12:20 EDT   
If you look at the profile of this stage you will see that it is predominantly uphill all the way. At the moment the roads are rolling hills as they head to the mountains.

12:29 EDT    108km/98km to go
We are nearing the sprint now and there are hundreds of people lining to road waiting for their piece of the action.

12:32 EDT   
We figure that Postal has perhaps asked Domina for a bit of help today. Despite the fact that Domina have Galletti up the road, they would know that with these big mountains approaching, it's going to come back together, and there is still tomorrow, a stage that Cipollini will want to go for. If Domina help out Postal a bit today, they could get some help tomorrow from Postal.

12:33 EDT    110km/96km to go
Fraser has taken the second sprint of the day which puts him in the sprint points lead by five points from Dominguez. Second in the sprint was Durand followed by Ellis.

12:37 EDT   
The break is up to 4'15" again but the break is a little disorganised at the moment. Galletti is the leader on the road and has attacked out of the break. He has a little gap on the break now and has been joined by another rider. The rest of the break are looking at each other, not really getting organised.

12:39 EDT    113km/93km to go
They have just crested a little climb and they are going downhill, the road is a little twisty at the moment.

12:42 EDT   
The other ride with Galletti is Fraser and the pair have 30" on the rest of the break.

12:45 EDT    116km/90km to go
The roads are getting hillier now and more twisty in the foothills as the race approaches the mountains. The top of the first climb is 19km from here.

12:47 EDT   
The temperature today is now about 80 degrees (25 C), so its going to be a hot ride up the mountains, especially the final climb.

12:56 EDT    120km/86km to go
The riders in the break have just started climbing Hogpen. Galletti and Fraser have 50" on the chase group now and 4'30" on the peloton. Hogpen gap is reknowned as a hard climb, harder than anything yesterday.

12:57 EDT   
All the top GC riders are back in the peloton sitting comfortably with Postal still riding tempo on the front.

13:03 EDT   
One rider of note, this being known as "the race to help defeat cancer", is Ernie Lechuga (Jelly Belly), who had a great ride yesterday to finish in the front group. A reader has written in to tell us that he also survived testicular cancer and that Lance gave him some encouragement along the way. This is the first time he has raced with Lance since battling cancer.

13:12 EDT    131km/75km to go
Galletti now has 5'00" on race leader Lance Armstrong. He has dropped Fraser and the break has totally blown apart and are sitting about 10" apart in the following order behing Fraser. Herriott (Colavita), Ellis (Jelly Belly), Hamby (Sierra Nevada) and Saunders (Ofoto). Ravaioli (Barloworld) punctured 5km from the top of the climb but is back in the action sitting behind Saunders.

13:12 EDT   
Bobby Julich (CSC) is the first to attack out of the peloton on this first major climb of the day.

13:14 EDT   
Mike Sinyard, founder of Specialized bikes, is sitting in the Domina team car today watching the race. He would certainly be happy to see Galletti on the attack today.

13:17 EDT    134km/72km to go
Julich (CSC) has been caught by the peloton and Ricon and Padrnos (USPS) are setting tempo on the front. Armstrong is sitting comfortably behind.

13:19 EDT    134.3km/71.7km to go
Galletti now has 1'10" on Fraser and 2'00" on Herriott as he approaches the KOM at Hogpen. The peloton are catching riders from the break but are still 4'00" behind Galetti. He'll need a lot more than four minutes today though if he's going to survive the bagarre on the final climb to Brasstown Bald.

13:25 EDT   
The climb the riders are cresting now is really steep in the last 5km getting up to a 20% gradient at time. Galletti is on the descent now which is really fast for the first part. He'll be able to crank it up to about 90km/h going down parts of this decent because it doesn't have a lot of sharp turns.

13:31 EDT   
Galletti has increased his lead to Fraser. It is now 2'00". Herriott is behind Fraser and the Lance Armstrong group is at 4'00". All the other original break riders have been absorbed.

All the favourites are still with the main bunch. Cipollini's group went over the climb about 3'00" down on the main group.

13:33 EDT   
36 year old Alessio Galletti (Domina Vacanze) is better known as a domestique rather than a race winner. However, in his 10 years as a pro, he has picked up a handful of victories. He won a stage in the Tour de l'Ain in 1998 as well as the GP Fred Mengoni in Italy in 2003. In 2001, he won a very hot stage solo into Victor Habor in the Tour Down Under after a long breakaway.

He is looking good as he winds through the valleys. It is all rolling now until they reach the final climb. Galletti is a tough rider and is riding very hard today.

13:42 EDT    150km/56km to go
There is now 17 kilometers until the next Maxxis Sprint. The gaps on the road remaint the same. Hundreds of people lined the road on the last climb and the crowds are really gathering at Brasstown Bald for the finale. Again many cyclists are riding up the hill to make it up there before the race comes up. Still 56km to go until that happens.

13:48 EDT    152km/54km to go
The terrain is beautiful here in high horse country, very reminiscent of the Ardennes. It is rolling hills through the valley. Galletti's team car has finally made it up to him to give him some much needed food and fluids. He now has 4'20" on the main bunch. Fraser is 1'45" behind him and Herriott 2'30".

13:58 EDT    162km/44km to go
Glen Mitchell (Sierra Nevada), John Murphy (Jittery Joe's) and Nieko Bisker (Ofoto) have abandoned the race.

13:59 EDT    162km/44km to go
We have 5km to before the third sprint of the day. Galletti is still 4'20" on the front bunch. Fraser is 3'20" behind Galletti and Herriott has been absorbed by the bunch.

14:01 EDT    167km/39km to go
Galetti has crossed the sprint line and Fraser will take second place in a couple of minutes to increase his lead in the sprint competition.

14:07 EDT    171km/35km to go
Galletti has 3'55" on the peloton at the moment. The gap is falling a little now as we head towards the final climb. Fraser still sits in the middle about a minute in front of the peloton but it is likely that he will sit up now and wait for the bunch, as he has done what he set out to do and taken as many sprint points as he could.

14:08 EDT   
The sprint results are Galletti, Fraser with Dominguez taking the sprint out of the bunch for third.

14:10 EDT    174km/32km to go
Fraser has been caught and the gap to Galletti has fallen to 2'55" as they head up a long drag on a wide, four lane highway.

14:14 EDT    177km/29km to go
With only 30km remaining in the race, the main bunch has about 50 riders in it. All the big guns are in the group and a lot of guys who were dropped on the climb got back on during the descent.

14:14 EDT   
The gap is back out to 3'40" as the peloton slowed a little going up the long flat drag.

14:25 EDT    186km/20km to go
The final climb actually starts now with 20km remaining. It is the last 5km that is really steep and where the race will be won or lost. Get ready to see the attacks come up here. Galletti has just started the climb and his gap to the peloton is down again to 3'06".

14:30 EDT   
The gap is down again now to 2'40" as the peloton starts revving it up for this final climb. This is the last chance in the tour for the GC to really get shaken up. We should be watching for attacks from all the riders in the top 10 on GC. Those are:

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor 17.02.19
2 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC 0.24
3 Chris Horner (USA) Webcor Builders 0.51
4 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC 1.06
5 Brian Vandborg (Den) Team CSC 1.30
6 Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor 1.31
7 Christopher Baldwin (USA) Navigators Insurance 1.37
8 Eric Wohlberg (Can) Sierra Nevada Cycling 1.39
9 Phil Zajicek (USA) Navigators Insurance 2.32
10 George Hincapie (USA) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor 2.37

But we will also expect an attack from riders such as Grajales, who trains in this area and knows the climb well. He'll be going for a stage win today.

14:32 EDT   
CSC will be trying to work over Lance Armstrong, but he has Hincapie by his side at all times and a strong team of climbers to help him in the hills.

14:35 EDT    190km/16km to go
The road was going upwards at 20km to go in the foothills, but in reality the climb starts at 10km to go. Galletti has just over 2'00", he is getting tired. The peloton are stretched right across the road right now, and not in single file like they were before. They are just rolling towards the climb preparing themselves for the onslaught.

14:45 EDT    14km/192km to go
The gap is 2'40" now but the peloton look like they have picked up the pace. They have just turned onto Owl Creek road and the road has narrowed to two lanes. There are a lot of small groups of spectators on the side of the road and families sitting in their pickup trucks watching the race go by.

14:46 EDT   
There are big clouds looming at the top of the mountain and the last one kilometer of the climb is total white out.

14:49 EDT   
Apparently, back in the good old days of toeclips (1988-1989) the Athens Twilight Criterium was an omnium weekend and all categories had a ITT up the last five kilometers of Brasstown. I'm sure there'll be people out there checking their times with the pace today!

14:57 EDT   
The race is lost in the mountains momentarily.

15:03 EDT   
As soon as we get any coverage at all, we'll give you an update.

15:05 EDT   
A rider who will be giving it everything today is Eric Wohlberg (Sierra Nevada). He is the classic domestique and is always giving 100% to his teammates. In this race, he is sitting 8th on GC and can ride for himself, as his teammate Trent Klasna abandoned the race a few days ago.

15:15 EDT   
There is approximately about 5km to go in the race and we do apologise for not being able to give updates at this moment when it is all happening. As soon as we can find out anything, you will get it. The race is right in the middle of the mountains, so there is not even any cell phone coverage to resort to.

15:29 EDT   
To recap, we are approaching the end of the deciding stage to Brasstown Bald, where Alessio Galletti (Domina Vacanze) is trying to pull off an unlikely stage win after having been in a break all day. The Italian started the climb with a 2'40 lead on the peloton, which may not be enough to hold them off.

Unfortunately, the race has disappeared into the clouds as it were, and we have had no contact with race radio or any of the race officials since the climb started. (There is no TV coverage). We're trying our best to find someone though. Aha, success...

15:30 EDT    206km/0km to go
A report has come in from Chris Brewer (Lancearmstrong.com), who is in the US Postal team car:

"In an epic battle to the top of Brasstown Bald Mountain in northern GA, it was Jittery Joe's Cesar Grajales winning the dramatic stage, but Lance was there in third place on CSC's Jens Voigt's wheel. Lance retains the yellow jersey and should take the overall title tomorrow! The day was dominated by Team USPS as they let a small break go up the road but then took over at the base of the final climb."

Once again, apologies that our high tech tin can-and-string failed at the final hurdle. We're putting in a request for a Tour de Georgia mobile cell network for next year. We can always hope...


Top 3 

1 Cesar Grajales (Jittery Joe's)
2 Jens Voigt (CSC)
3 Lance Armstrong (USPS)

General Classification after stage 6

1 Lance Armstrong (USPS)
2 Jens Voigt (CSC)