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Tour de Georgia - 2.3

Georgia, USA, April 20-25, 2004

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Stage 7 - April 25: Dawsonville - Alpharetta, 142.3 km

Commentary by Kristy Scrymgeour, with additional reporting from Tim Maloney

Complete live report

13:02 EDT   
Welcome to the final day of the Tour de Georgia. After the big day up Brasstown Bald yesterday, which decided the general classification, today is flat and a perfect day for the sprinters.

Lance Armstrong (USPS) held onto the leaders jersey yesterday, finishing with Jens Voigt (CSC) and taking third in the stage. It was local Athens boy, Cesar Grajales (Jittery Joe's) however, that strutted his stuff to take his biggest win in his career. He attacked with 3km to go, splitting up the remaining elite bunch, and finished 17 seconds ahead of Voigt and Armstrong.

The riders are lined up ready to start in Dawsonville, Georgia and the crowds are huge once again. They will ride 142 km south today and there is quite a wind coming from the south west. The first half of the race they will have a cross head wind as they head south east and then they will turn into the wind to head south west to Alpharetta where it is reported that a crowd of 60,000 spectators are already waiting for the big race finale.

13:14 EDT   
Again, we apologise for leaving everyone hanging yesterday. It was frustrating for all of us. Like reading a good book with the last page missing. Today we will not have that problem as there are no huge mountains in our way. The race is relatively flat. After 114km the riders will arrive in Alpharetta for the final intermediate sprint after which they will enter yet another finishing circuit. The finishing circuit is 9km and like a hotdog loop with a long curved finishing straight. Mario Cipollini (Domina Vacanze) finished comfortably, 18 minutes down today, and will be wanting to take another stage win here today. Again it is likely that he will will up against the leader of the sprint classification, Gord Fraser (Health Net) and of course Ivan 'Papa' Dominguez (Colavita Olive Oil).

13:16 EDT    5km/137.3km to go
A break has just gone up the road with five riders and they have a small gap on the field as the race heads down a nice long descent out of Dawsonville.

13:18 EDT   
The top ten in the general classification after yesterday is as follows:
1 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal Service/Berry Floor 22.19.05
2 Jens Voigt (Ger) CSC 0.24
3 Chris Horner (USA) Webcor 1.01
4 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC 1.57
5 Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus) US Postal Service/Berry Floor 2.59
6 Cesar Grajales Calle (Col) Jittery Joe's 3.07
7 Scott Moninger (USA) Health Net 3.44
8 Sergio Marinangeli (Ita) Domina Vacanze 4.06
9 Brian Vandborg (Den) CSC 4.52
10 Eric Wohlberg (Can) Sierra Nevada 5.25

13:21 EDT   
The first break didn't last long. It was reeled in and a counter attack went immediately which included Horner. Of course that one was quickly shut down before it went anywhere.

13:22 EDT    9km/133.3km to go
A solo rider has attacked. It is Dominique Perras from Ofoto/Lombardi Sports. He has ten seconds on the field.

13:24 EDT   
Ofoto have been very active in this tour, and it looks like they are continuing that aggression today. Being the last day, and the last chance for riders to get a stage win, the attacks will be constant, as many teams will not want to leave their chances only to a bunch sprint.

13:27 EDT   
Domina Vacanze, Health Net, Colavita Bolla and of course US Postal service will be aiming to keep it all together however, so it will be hard for anything to stay away.

13:28 EDT    14km/128.3km to go
A Navigators and a Health Net rider have bridged up to Perras, but it looks like they are going to get caught. The blue train of US Postal are setting tempo on the front to keep it all together.

13:30 EDT    15km/127.3km to go
And the break has been caught, as the race leaves the outskirts of Dawsonville, the home of Thunder Road.

13:39 EDT    19km/123.3km to go
The race is all together at the moment, more attacks have been going, but no-one is getting anywhere.

13:48 EDT    28km/114.3km to go
Aaron Olsen (Colavita) and Jackson Stewart (Ofoto) attacked but have been caught again. The roads are now wide open through a river bottom area as the race heads towards Tate, Gerogia. It's a beautiful day and now the roads are wide open so again it will be hard for anything to get away. The race is following Swamp Creek right now.

13:56 EDT    35km/107.3km to go
The race is passing through Tate, Georgia now and the riders have just crossed a rough level crossing. The peloton is all together with Postal sitting on the front. Francesco Secchiari (Domina) is also up helping at the front and the Health Net team are up there too.

13:59 EDT   
If this all stays together today we are going to see another battle of the team lead-outs. Health Net, Domina, Colavita and probably also Colnago Landbrouwkredit will be up there in the fight. Colnago will be trying to get Yuri 'Mitu' Metlushenko up there for a win today. He is feeling good, has enjoyed his time here and will be looking to go back to Europe with a stage win under his belt.

14:07 EDT    40km/102.3km to go
The peloton remains together with nothing really going on at this point. They are heading through Nelson, Gerogia towards the feed zone, which is 20km from here. Today the commissaires are allowing extended feeding from the team cars because it is quite hot, up in the high 80's.

14:12 EDT   
We spoke to Bobby Julich (CSC) this morning about yesterdays race. He said:
"[Yesterday] was steep. I was not feeling really good. I've been kind of tired the whole week. I [attacked] to try and soften them up for before Jens hit them pretty good. Once I saw the guys that were ahead of me on GC - stronger than me - ride up, I just tried to ride up and not hurt myself too much. I'm tired but I'm happy and it's time to take a chill. I have a month of no racing now and I'm going to train at altitude [here is the US]. My next race will be the CSC invitational and then Philly. I'd like to go for the stars and stripes."

14:18 EDT    45km/97.3km to go
Danny Pate (Health Net) and Francesco Secchiari (Domina) are on the front at the moment as the bunch heads up a small rise in the road. The bunch is still together and there have been no break away attempts.

14:27 EDT    53km/89.3km to go
The peloton is all together as the race goes through the charming countryside of rural Georgia. The feed zone is coming up after which Dominguez and Fraser will be getting ready for the first Maxxis sprint line in Cumming, GA. They hit this at the 90km mark.

14:29 EDT    55km/87.3km to go
Even if Dominguez wins both the intermediate sprints today, and Fraser comes second, he will still be one point behind Fraser when they hit the finishing circuits. If he beats Fraser in the finishing sprint, he can take the sprint jersey. Health Net are determined not to let that happen, however, and Fraser made quite an effort to get those sprint points with his long, hard breakaway yesterday.

14:33 EDT   
We talked to the DS of Navigators, Ed Beamon, this morning, who is hoping for a bunch sprint in the race today. He said:
"We just need to be aggressive today. It's a good day for a breakaway as the GC has already been sorted. It's an opportunity for a couple of guys to to go up the road, but Postal has a strong team and I'm sure they will keep it together. They won't be too concerned about a stage win though."

"I'm hoping for a field sprint so we can set up Vassili [Davidenko]. If the guys are feeling good, we'll try to do a lead out, but it's been a long week."

14:49 EDT    70km/72.3km to go
Riders have just gone through the feed zone and are having lunch. They have little baskets attached to their handlebars..... just joking. It's a warm day but it's overcast which is taking the intensity off the sun. They are riding a long Matt Hwy.

There are a lot of people out on the side of the road, including who were are calling "the Lance girls". There have been a lot of teenage girls coming out to watch the races with Postal Jersey's on and other Postal paraphanalia. Today they are on the side of the road in bikini's!

It is all together. There will be some action soon with the first sprint coming up, and then another sprint at 114km. But it looks like most of the action will be in the final kilometers of the race today.

14:53 EDT   
We talked to Cesar Grajales this morning who said they are going to wait until this afternoon to celebrate yesterday's win. "We are going to have a BBQ", after which his DS, Micah Rice added, "and we are going to have a keg of Shiner Bock", which is apparently Lance's favourite beer.

Grajales added, "Today we are going to just stay in good position because it's going to be fast in the end. We're going to try to stay safe because the finishing circuit could be dangerous."

14:55 EDT   
Cipollini is sitting nicely in the bunch and won't be sprinting for the intermediate sprints. He'll be waiting to get fired up for the finish. He keeps talking about how he has enjoyed racing in the US and wishes that he had raced here before. He was supposed to race in the BMC race in Houston in 2001, but because of september 11 of course, all flights were cancelled and so was the race.

15:01 EDT    75km/67.3km to go
Piano, piano is the situation right now as they go past Coal Mountain, GA. The bunch is just rolling along. No doubt there are a lot of tired riders out there today. Really the feature of the day are the Lance girls. They are all along the road, young and old, waiting for the five time Tour de France winner to roll by.

15:07 EDT    80km/62.3km to go
After yesterday's stage, Armstrong is pretty confident of course, that they would hold onto the jersey today. He said in the press conference, "Itís pretty simple now, because there is only one guy to watch. (Laughs and looks at Voigt). But I like our chances with our team here; if itís all right that I say that? (To Voigt)."

Despite the fact that Armstrong commented that they had to watch Voigt, at 24 seconds down, it is very unlikely that Voigt would attempt or would be able to take back that time on a short flat stage. It is also generally accepted in big pro tours that the last day is not a day to change the GC. It is more a stage for the sprinters to show their stuff.

15:18 EDT    85km/57.3km to go
Postal are still on the front and just rolling slowly. The pace today is slower than the slowest predicted pace. Basically they are just enjoying the parade through the constant line of Lance girls.

The sprint is coming up in 5km, so we should see some action soon. They have a headwind as they head towards the town of Cummings.

15:21 EDT    88.6km/53.7km to go
Fraser and Dominguez are going after the sprint now.

15:23 EDT    89.6km/52.7km to go
They have just gone over the sprint line, it was very close. There is an immediate counter attack caused by the sprint. An ofoto rider attacked, it is Jason Bausch. Going with him is Tim Johnson (Saeco) and David George (Barloworld).

15:25 EDT    92km/50.3km to go
The bunch is strung out now in single file and the trio, after getting 50meters off the front, are about to get caught. The sprint has certainly sparked some action. The pace is still fast.

15:28 EDT    93km/49.3km to go
There was an immediate counter attack which was reeled back in straight away. Chris Baldwin (Navigators) has countered that moved and now has 50m off the front.

15:30 EDT    95km/47.3km to go
Baldwin has been caught and Jason Bausch (Ofoto) has attacked again. They race is now on a small two lane road called the Atlanta Hwy and the road in rolling.

15:31 EDT   
It is single file and there are a couple of guys trying to bridge to Bausch.

15:33 EDT    98km/44.3km to go
Now two riders have joined Bausch so there is a group of three off the front. It looks like Jacky Durand (Colnago) and Daniel Bowman (US National team). They have 7" on the bunch.

15:40 EDT   
The race is all back together now, but the pace is still high.

Sprint results from Maxxis sprint #1: Fraser (Health Net), McCartney (Health Net)and Capelle (Colnago).

This pretty much confirms Fraser's points jersey.

15:41 EDT    106km/36.3km to go
The race has just entered Fulton county and the peloton is all together.

15:47 EDT   
It has been a great week for the US National team, with Kevin Bouchard-Hall holding the young riders jersey. It looks like five of the team will finish this tour, which is a great effort for the young development team which is being directed by Jonathan Vaughters, as most of the riders in the team belong to the TIAA Cref team.

Here is the young riders classification:

1 Kevin Bouchard-Hall (USA) USA National 22.29.54
2 Timothy Duggan (USA) USA National 6.39
3 Daniel Bowman (USA) USA National 8.36
4 Stuart Gillespie (USA) USA National 30.01
5 Blake Caldwell (USA) USA National 31.20

Bouchard-Hall is sitting in 30th position on GC.

15:51 EDT    110km/32.3km to go
Only four kilometers remaining until the next sprint which is in Alpharetta. The Health Net team are setting the pace on the front. It looks like McCartney is the lead out man and Mike Sayers is sitting behind Fraser protecting his wheel. They are on a big wide road.

15:52 EDT   
The peloton is passing more Lance girls. The latest one was holding a sign saying, "Lance, will you marry me."

15:53 EDT   
The crowds at the finish line are huge. It was estimated at 60,000 before the race even started and since then it has grown. It will be an exciting atmosphere once again for the finale.

15:55 EDT    115km/27.3km to go
Fraser has just won the second sprint and the results are the same as the first sprint. Fraser, McCartney and Capelle. They will hit the finishing circuits very soon for the final four laps of 5.9km each.

16:05 EDT    124.6km/17.7km to go
The rider are on the circuit and have just seen three laps to go. Ofoto, Postal and Domina are all near the front and the pace is moving. The drag to the finish line is uphill.

16:05 EDT   
No attacks yet but they are bound to come soon.

16:09 EDT    127km/15.3km to go
Postal service are on the front and they are nearing two laps to go, it is still all together. It won't be long before we see the battle of the lead-outs.

16:11 EDT   
The finishing circuit is a hotdog loop. There are thousands of people lining the course all the way around. The finishing straight curves as it goes uphill to the finish line.

16:12 EDT    130.5km/11.8km to go
With two to go they are all together as they go through the finish line. At the front is a Colavita rider followed by a Domina, Postal and Health Net rider in that order. There is not one team en masse at the front yet.

16:16 EDT    134km/8.3km to go
Still all together but now the Health Net team and Domina are getting their lead-outs organized to battle it out again. Only one and a half laps to go now and the pace is fast. It's all strung out.

16:19 EDT    136.4km/5.9km to go
With one lap to go, Domina Vacanze are dominating at the front. Gord Fraser is sitting 5th wheel in good position and Navigators also have three guys right up there for Davidenko.

16:21 EDT    137.4km/4.9km to go
It will be a battle between Fraser and Cipollini. It is a slight uphill sprint which is good for Fraser, but it is also a tailwind.

16:22 EDT    139.3km/3km to go
Only three kilometers to go now. The crowd is huge. Big time bike racing has come to the US.

16:23 EDT    140.3km/2km to go
Fraser is now sitting in second position.

16:24 EDT   
Domina's train got messed up and they are trying to bring Cipollini back to the front.

16:24 EDT    141.3km/1km to go
Domina are back on the front. David Clinger is on Cipollini's wheel.

16:24 EDT   
Dominguez is also up there and he likes uphill sprints.

16:25 EDT    141.7km/0.6km to go
Here is comes..... Fraser looks good on the right hand side. Sierra Nevada are also there and Cipo.

16:27 EDT    142.3km/0km to go
It's Fraser again! He came around on the outside and Cipo couldn't hold him off. Sierra Nevada in second. It looks like Hamby.

16:27 EDT   
Cipo in third.

16:28 EDT   
No, it wasn't Hamby, it was Juan Jose Haedo (Colavita).

16:28 EDT   
So it was Fraser, Haedo, Cipollini and then Dominguez.

16:31 EDT   
The uphill sprint worked for Fraser again! Fraser will be even happier with his win this time as Cipollini actually contested the sprint unlike the first day where Cipo decided not to contest it mid circuit.

16:36 EDT   
Thanks for tuning in this week to our live coverage of Tour de Goergia. Full results, photos and report to come.

Brief Results

1 Gord Fraser (Health Net)
2 Juan Jose Haedo (Colavita)
3 Mario Cipollini (Domina Vacanze)
4 Ivan Dominguez (Colavita)