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Tour de Georgia - 2.HC

USA, April 18-23, 2006

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Stage 1 - April 18: Augusta, GA - Macon, GA, 207.4km

Commentary by Kristy Scrymgeour with additional reporting by Mark Zalewski and Kirsten Robbins

Complete live report

11:23 EDT   
Welcome to Cyclingnews' Live Coverage of the 4th Tour de Georgia. It was expected to be another hot and humid tour like we saw in the first two years of the race, but it’s actually a bit overcast on the start line today and a little cooler than expected. There’s also a slight breeze already. The crowd is starting to build a little. There’s not quite as many people here as the last few years, probably due to the absence of one Lance Armstrong. The crowd around the Discovery bus tells the tale. However there is still a nice crowd to welcome the riders back to Georgia and the appearance of the only and only James Brown is certainly creating a bit of hype. A lot of the riders are trying to get their picture taken with him.

Today’s stage is the same as stage 1 of the 2005 Tour de Georgia, starting in Augusta and traveling 207km to the town of Macon. Last year the race started fairly slowly and young Dan Bowman of Team TIAA-CREF was the sacrificial lamb, going solo for over 90 miles of racing before finally being caught near the end of the race for the sprinters teams to take control. In the end it was Robbie Hunter (Phonak) who took the stage from Ben Brooks who was then riding for Jelly Belly. Both Hunter and Brooks are back again to see what they can do, however this year Brooks is riding for Navigators.

The overall 2005 race winner Tom Danielson (Discovery) is also back on the start line, but as we said before, without Lance Armstrong to hide behind. It will be quite a different race for him this year but he will be looking to repeat the victory. Second place in the overall last year Levi Leipheimer is not back to try for one better, but third placed Floyd Landis (Phonak) is. He has already showed what he can do on American soil in February with his Tour of California win and will be the one to watch again this week.

11:31 EDT   
The neutral start is underway.

11:36 EDT   
The riders will ride 8km neutral before the actual race gets underway today before they head out of Augusta towards the town of Harlem. At Harlem, after 35km of racing they will hit the first of three Maxxis Sprint lines of the day. The sprints will have points for the sprint jersey as well as time bonus seconds.

11:47 EDT   
The riders have just reached the official race start. Its pretty flat out here on the main road out of town. The school kids are out again. A few of them have signs. Its still overcast as they cruise out of town for the start of a long stage.

11:48 EDT   
We already have a few attacks now. Guys trying to warm up their legs, but nothing is getting very far just yet. It would be a very long day out there if you went this early.

11:50 EDT   
There's a bit of a climb heading out of town now. Its actually TIAA CREF attacking now. Perhaps they're going to try again like they did last year. I'm sure they'll be hoping to take someone else with them this time.

11:51 EDT   
The field is responding and it mainly the Phonak team on the front of the field right now.

11:51 EDT   
We have a couple of riders with a small gap off the front.

11:58 EDT    8km/199.4km to go
Geert Verheyen (Quick.Step), Chris Baldwin (Toyota United), Dustin MacBurnie (Targetraining) and Matty Rice (Jelly Belly) started the ball rolling and a group of 19 riders formed quickly. They have a ten second gap.

11:58 EDT   
They are coming back now though. This one is not going to work.

12:00 EDT   
Sergey Lagutin (Navigators) is attacking now.

12:02 EDT   
He has now been caught as Chris Baldwin suffers a flat wheel in the bunch.

12:04 EDT    15km/192.4km to go
Ian MacGregor (TIAA Cref) attacked but was caught straight away. We are 15km into the race.

12:07 EDT   
We have a group of ten riders up the road now.

12:08 EDT   
Led by Tyler Wren (Colavita Olive Oil - Sutter Homes Wines), the break is growing. Its now up to 14 riders.

12:09 EDT   
The group has 20 seconds on the field.

12:11 EDT    19km/188.4km to go
They are also getting caught and we'll wait for the counter.

12:11 EDT   
The Phonak team is on the front of the bunch keeping things under control it seems.

12:14 EDT   
And there it is - a counter. It doesn't look like its going anywhere though.

12:17 EDT   
We have a group of three away now. In the group is Trent Wilson (Jittery Joe's-Zero Gravity), Dominique Perras (Kodakgallery.com - Sierra Nevada) and Austin King (Jittery Joe's-Zero Gravity).

12:19 EDT   
They've been caught and Florian Stadler (Phonak) and Tyler Wren (Colavita Olive Oil - Sutter Homes Wines) have countered. They have a 50m gap.

12:20 EDT   
But alas, they are getting caught too. It looks like TIAA CREF and Health Net were onto that one.

12:23 EDT   
Yet another break attempt now. Six riders have a gap but its only 5km until the first sprint.

12:26 EDT    26km/181.4km to go
Its unlikely a break will stay out there until after the first sprint as any teams wanting to go for the sprint jersey or get some early time bonus points will be wanting to keep it together for that. Another sprint comes after 69km of racing so we could see something happen before that.

12:42 EDT    35km/172.4km to go
Alejandro Acton (Targetraining) won the first sprint of the day from Matty Rice (Jelly Belly) and Allan Johansen (CSC). There was a small break of five riders after that but its all back together at this point.

12:43 EDT    45km/162.4km to go
Seven riders now have a small gap on the field but they are quickly getting caught again.

12:45 EDT   
Frank Pipp (Targetraining) is attacking now. This is the first time in the TOur de Georgia for Targetraining. It should be interesting to see how they go.

12:53 EDT   
The riders have just slowed down for a nature break. Good to get this over and done with early whilst the race is slow.

12:58 EDT   
Our reporter Kirsten Robbins caught up with a few of the riders on the start line today. One of those was Gord Fraser. Gord won a few stages here two years ago and will be going for a stage win today. He said "I'm not going for the green jersey here. My main focus is to win the stage today." He predicts his biggest competition for today's stage will be Davitamon-Lotto with Freddie Rodriguez, Juan Jose Haedo (Toyota United) and Robbie Hunter (Phonak).

13:02 EDT   
Last year's winner of this stage, Robbie Hunter also told us that he wasn't going for the sprinters jersey, in fact his main goal this week will be to work for Floyd. He added that if he has good position at the end today he'll go for a stage win, but its not a big goal of the team.
His teammate Aurelien Clerc echoed this sentiment saying that the team will not go for stage wins. They're happy for Hunter to go for a stage win in the first few stages but they're certainly not going to put their whole team up there for the lead out.

13:03 EDT   
Viktor Rapinksi (Colavita Olive Oil - Sutter Homes Wines) is up the road alone right now. He has a 20 second lead on the field.

13:05 EDT   
We talked to Colavita Olive/Sutter Homes DS Frank McCormack before the start of the race today and they were just going to see how things went with Rapinksi. He's their best sprinter but he had a hard time in Tour of California earlier this year and he didn't feel so good in Redlands, but he seems to look quite good out there now.

13:17 EDT    69km/138.4km to go
Rapinksi has been caught now. The field is approaching the second sprint of the day. They are all together sprinting.

13:22 EDT    72km/135.4km to go
JJ Haedo (Toyota United) won the second sprint of the day, followed by Acton and Francisco Ventoso (Saunier Duval Prodir).

13:28 EDT   
Another rider we caught up with this morning is Dave Zabriskie (CSC). He said in the press conference yesterday that he is in perfect form for this race and he seemed very confident this morning. He said that he is confident he can win the time trial in two days time and his race will start from there. He added that the time trial course is good for him and he's also confident he and his team can hold on to the leaders jersey from there. He knows that Floyd and Danielson will be a threat on the climbing days but he thinks he can stay with them on the climbs and keep the jersey.

13:37 EDT    85km/122.4km to go
We did just have a four rider break including Scott Zwizanski (Kodakgallery.com - Sierra Nevada), Ryan Blickem (Targetraining) and two others. They've been reeled in and another group has countered. It looks like a Davitamon Lotto rider is up there and another Targetraining guy.

13:42 EDT   
In the three is Heath Blackgrove (Toyota united), Ian MacGregor (TIAA CREF) and Wesley Hartman (Targetraining).

13:43 EDT   
Riders are starting to bridge up to these leaders and there looks to be over 20 riders with a gap on the field now.

13:47 EDT    94km/113.4km to go
The group is up to 30 riders but the bunch is chasing and the gap is coming down.

13:47 EDT   
Two riders tried to attack off the front of that group but they were reeled in as the rest of the break got caught by the peloton.

13:55 EDT    98km/109.4km to go
A new break has formed now and looks a little more stable than most. The bunch are not chasing just yet and there is a 30 second gap. In the group is Aaron Olson (Prodir-Saunier Duval), Danny Pate (TIAA CREF), Neil Shirley (Jittery Joe's-Zero Gravity) and Jackson Stewart (Kodakgallery.com - Sierra Nevada).

13:56 EDT   
The gap is growing quickly as Olson sits on the front and powers the break. They are up to a minute ahead now as they head towards the feed zone.

13:59 EDT   
We caught up with Olson this morning who recently broke a finger in the Tour of Flanders. His girlfriend Kim Anderson broke her collarbone on the same day in the women's version of Flanders. Not a good day for them. Anyway, Aaron says he's feeling much better. He says he's happy to be back in the US racing and that he is pretty free to go for things for himself in this race.

14:02 EDT    105km/102.4km to go
The gap has increased to 2'20" now. Olson really got this break going and was doing the majority of the work for quite a while to get things established. Now the other three are starting to roll through more and its looking pretty even. Just over 100km left to race.

14:09 EDT    208km/-0.6km to go
The gap is over three minutes now with no reaction from the field. They are content to let this one go for a while at this point. With 100km to the finish they have time.

14:11 EDT   
Speaking of broken collarbones. One reader has just written in to say that another rider in the break (excuse the pun), Neil Shirley, also broke his collarbone six weeks ago in a race in California. Seems he's recovered well to line up in Georgia.

14:15 EDT    115km/92.4km to go
A correction to the riders in the break. Its actually Dan Bowman, not his teammate Danny Pate. Bowman must like this course as he rode solo here for over 150km last year. At least this time he has some help.
The group of four now have 4'25" on the bunch and the gap is growing!

14:19 EDT   
Last year Bowman's team director Jonathan Vaughter's told him to keep the gap under 10 minutes to keep the alarm bells from ringing in the bunch. Unfortunately for Bowman, Vaughters was right and when he got out to 13 minutes, the bunch started to chase. It will be interesting to see what they get out to this time.

14:22 EDT   
The gap is now up to five minutes as Olson rolls through for another turn on the front. The terrain is consistently rolling here as they pass field after field. A while back they went through a town called Culverton which has a sign posted: "Population 37+/-"

14:32 EDT    124km/83.4km to go
The gap is up to seven minutes now as they near Baldwin County. The sun is starting to come out and the temperature is rising a little. In 20km the riders will have another Maxxis Sprint. Its likely this break will still be away by then so that won't cause much alarm.

14:38 EDT    130km/77.4km to go
9'50" is the gap now. Getting to that critical point!

14:41 EDT    131km/76.4km to go
Actually the latest time gap is 11'15" and seems to be growing. All of the riders are doing pretty even turns out there. They have a slight crosswind and are sticking to the right side of the road.

14:47 EDT   
The crowds are building up at the finish which is the same as last year. It's quite a tough finish consisting of three laps of a 3.4km loop. Within each lap are two climb, the second climb being the biggest and steepest. After cresting the climb, the road dives back down before making the turn into the finishing straight with only 300m to go. One of the climbs is brick making it that little bit harder.

14:48 EDT   
After they go through this next sprint they have 53km until they hit the finishing circuits.

14:52 EDT    139km/68.4km to go
The gap has fallen slightly to 10'46" as the riders hit 5km to the sprint. They are going over a small rise now and are up out of the saddle.

14:58 EDT   
Last year Bowman was caught at about the 40km to go mark leading to counter attacks. If the sprinters teams get it right they'll try to reel it in a little later this time to save themselves from covering counters. There are four of them in the break this time so it will take a little more effort in the chase which is bound to start soon.

14:59 EDT   
The gap is coming down now steadily, the latest time gap being 9'08".

15:03 EDT    147km/60.4km to go
Jackson Stewart took the points at the third Maxxis sprint in the town of Millidgeville. Bowman was second and Shirley third.

15:04 EDT   
Back in the peloton the Toyota United Team are setting tempo on the front with a bit of help from Davitamon Lotto. Toyota has a very quick sprinter with JJ Haedo who rode so well in the Tour of California winning two stages.

15:07 EDT   
Haedo has also done fairly well at Georgia, taking a second place to Gord Fraser in Stage 7 in 2004. He'll be aiming to improve on that and its fairly likely that he can going on his form this year.

15:16 EDT    155km/52.4km to go
The gap hasn't really come down all that much since the last check. Its 8'55". Discovery is setting the pace back in the field now. Its unlikely they are interested in the bunch sprint, but they would be concerned about Olson. They wouldn't want him to have too much time at the end of this stage.

15:21 EDT   
The Phonak riders are also up there with Discovery. The GC teams obviously got sick of waiting for the sprinters teams to start the chase.

15:22 EDT   
Phonak doesn have one of the best sprinters and as Hunter said before the stage, he'll go for it if he's there, but he also said that Phonak wouldn't waste too much energy going for stage wins as the overall is more important to them.

15:23 EDT   
The gap has fallen to 7'40" now with Phonak and Discovery setting the pace in the peloton.

15:28 EDT   
Three Disco riders, three Phonak riders and one Toyota United rider are setting the pace at the front of the peloton. The gap is coming down but its going to be a tight one this time. The guys in the break are still rolling through steadily now.

15:33 EDT   
The gap is down to five minutes now so the chase has definitely picked up with about 40km remaining.

15:39 EDT   
On the finishing circuit, a women's race has just finished. It was called the Komen Central Georgia Cycle for the Cure and people could go to the website and sponsor a rider to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Shannon Hutchison (Aaron's Cycling Team) won the race in a bunch sprint and nearly all the girls raised $200 each during the race.

15:39 EDT   
4'06" is the gap now. Davitamon Lotto is also helping in the chase now along with Toyota United, Phonak and Discovery.

15:41 EDT    175km/32.4km to go
3'50" is the new gap and it is falling fast. Just over 30km remaining in the race.

15:43 EDT   
The pace in the peloton is quite fast now and its strung out. They are traveling at about 36miles/h which is 58km/h - very fast.

15:47 EDT    178km/29.4km to go
Only 20km to go before the field hits the finishing circuits now and that will go pretty quickly at this speed.

15:48 EDT   
Olson is attacking the break and Neil Shirley is covering his attack!

15:49 EDT   
Olson is leading now, he has Shirley on his wheel followed by Stewart and Bowman but they are all together. They are going over a small climb.

15:50 EDT   
They are out of the saddle. Bowman looks to be suffering a bit more than the others. Shirley rolls through to do a turn now. 2'50" is the gap.

15:50 EDT   
Olson rolls through again. He is clearly the strongest but he can't get away from them.

15:54 EDT   
Olson has attacked the break again and this time he has a gap. They can't go with him this time. He currently has 2'45" on the field and seven seconds on the rest of the chase. He has just seen 25km to go.

15:57 EDT   
Olson's gap is growing from the break but not from the field. He now has 20 seconds on the field. Discovery is chasing. Olson is in time trial mode. He's having a drink now.

15:58 EDT   
The peloton seems to be easing off a little bit but I'm sure it won't be for long.

15:59 EDT    186km/21.4km to go
Olson only has 1'20" to the bunch now and 24" to the chasers.

15:59 EDT   
Olson has 20km to go until the finish. The rest of the break is currently being led by Shirley.

16:00 EDT    188km/19.4km to go
Olson actually has 2'10" to the bunch and 24" to the rest of the break. He's powering out there. Its going to be close.

16:01 EDT   
Only ten kilometers to the finishing circuits as the race enters the town of Macon now.

16:03 EDT   
Quick.Step is chasing now. They have the whole team on the front.

16:04 EDT   
The fans are piling into the finishing circuit now just in time to see them come into the finishing circuit.

16:05 EDT   
Olson looks good. He's obviously not having all that much trouble with his wrist. He's out of the saddle, looking comfortable. He's looking back now trying to get an idea of how he's going.

16:06 EDT   
The gap is falling though. It's 1'32" to the field now and still 28" to the chasers.

16:06 EDT   
15km to go. It will be tough for him to hold off this chase. Quick.Step have it strung out.

16:08 EDT   
Now its Discovery back leading the chase. They now have the whole team on the front and the gap is down to one minute.

16:09 EDT   
Now 55" and falling.

16:10 EDT   
Olson has now reached the circuits and is on the paved climb. The three other breakaway riders are just about to be caught.

16:11 EDT    195km/12.4km to go
All three chasers have been caught and only 100m remains between Olson and the peloton.

16:12 EDT   
Freddy Rodriguez had a wheel change but has made it back into the bunch.

16:12 EDT   
Olson has about 50m on the downhill now. When they hit the finish line for the first time they'll see three laps to go.

16:13 EDT   
Olson still dangles a little bit off the front. Tough day for those breakaway riders, but thats bike racing.

16:14 EDT    97km/110.4km to go
1km to the finish line. Its a hard right turn and then a straight and then a hard left turn before the final 300m to the finishline.

16:15 EDT    98km/109.4km to go
Phonak is on the front of the bunch as Olson finally gets caught. They go under the finishing banner and see three laps to go.

16:16 EDT   
It looks like Mike Sayers (Health Net) on the front now. Davitamon takes over as a team followed by a few Discovery riders.

16:17 EDT   
We have an attack on the hill. Its a CSC rider.

16:17 EDT   
He's on the brick paved climb out of the saddle. He has a small gap.

16:19 EDT   
Its Allan Johansen from CSC in the lead. He has about a 20m gap on the downhill but Discovery is driving the chase.

16:19 EDT   
He goes under the 1km to go banner. He looks like he's increased his lead. When he hits the finish line he'll see two laps to go.

16:21 EDT    200km/7.4km to go
He has about five seconds. He takes a look over his shoulder. Four Health Net riders lead the chase with two Discovery riders.

16:21 EDT   
He is about to get caught now. He knows he's caught. Lets wait for the counter.

16:21 EDT   
Health Net on the front followed by Discovery.

16:22 EDT   
Discovery has about five riders on the front now. Health Net are moving back up though.

16:22 EDT   
They are back on the brick climb now. Health Net on the front. A Phonak rider moved up on the climb and leads.

16:23 EDT   
On the descent now. A Discovery rider has a 10m gap and its really strung out.

16:24 EDT   
A prodir rider attacks on the right on a small uphill.

16:24 EDT   
A Discovery rider joins him so we have two riders off the front.

16:25 EDT   
The speed is extremely fast. 41m/h (66km/h). Health Net is on the front now. The two attackers have been caught.

16:26 EDT   
Discovery and Davitamon Lotto also have riders up there, but its Health Net who leads.

16:26 EDT   
They are coming down the finishing straight and they'll see one lap to go.

16:26 EDT   
It looks like Dominique Perras (Kodak) up there too.

16:27 EDT    203.6km/3.8km to go
Still Health Net. Sayers doing a lot of work. They hit the paved climb for the last time.

16:27 EDT   
An attack by Quick.Step. He is covered by a Davitamon Lotto rider. They have 50m on the field on this climb.

16:28 EDT   
They are out of the saddle. They are being caught and Discovery counters.

16:28 EDT   
He's not getting anywhere though. Phonak has moved to the front with Discovery. Its all together.

16:29 EDT   
A Phonak rider leads followed by Discovery. Less than 2km to go. A CSC rider attacks now. He has 20m.

16:29 EDT   
A Discovery rider marks him. He is caught. Its all together again.

16:30 EDT   
On the descent now coming up to the 1km to go banner.

16:30 EDT   
1km to go. Its all together. Phonak and Health Net at the front. Saunier Duval takes over.

16:31 EDT   
A Quick.Step rider also up there. 300m to go.

16:31 EDT   
Riders down on the corner.

16:31 EDT   
CSC take the win followed by a Jelly Belly rider and then Rodriguez.

16:32 EDT   
Ivan Dominguez (Toyota Unite) went down on the last turn.

16:33 EDT   
It was Lars Michaelsen (CSC) who took the win.

16:39 EDT   
It has been confirmed that Michaelsen took the win. Rodriguez actually took second place and Caleb Manion came in for third.

16:39 EDT   
Thanks for tuning in to the first stage of the Tour de Georgia. We'll be back tomorrow for stage 2.

1 Lars Michaelsen (CSC)
2 Freddy Rodriguez (Davitamon Lotto)
3 Caleb Manion (Jelly Belly)


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