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Tour de Georgia - 2.HC

USA, April 18-23, 2006

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Stage 5 - April 22: Blairsville, GA - Brasstown Bald Mountain, GA, 152.1km

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

Complete live report

Welcome to Cyclingnews’ live coverage of the penultimate stage of the Tour de Georgia. Today is the big one and by the looks of the skies above it could be bigger than we’d imagined. It’s very dark up there and he if we don’t get some very heavy rain I’d be very surprised.

Yesterday was the first mountain stage but the climbs weren’t hard enough to split up the big guns and they will all line up today in the same position on GC as they were at the finish of the time trial. The Phonak team had to do quite a bit of time on the front yesterday. In fact the green train led the peloton for the entire race with Floyd Landis, wearing the yellow jersey, tucked in behind them. So they might be feeling it a little more than some of the other riders out there today.

Dave Zabriskie (CSC) found himself in an early break yesterday but he was looking good and it didn’t look like he fried himself for today. Tom Danielson with his Discovery teammate Jason McCartney doing his job as team guinea pig was allowed an easy ride yesterday and will be hoping to put in a performance similar to what he did last year and break them on the climb. He has his teammate Yaroslav Popovych right up there on GC with him, so they have a couple of hands to play.

Another GC contender, who currently sits less than a minute behind Floyd Landis on GC, is Health Net rider Nathan O’Neill. He will be out there giving it a go today as will Cesar Grajales of Navigators. We all saw what he did on this course in 2004. During yesterday’s stage he said he was feeling really good. “I felt like Phonak just keep attacking and increasing the pace, and I knew I was working hard to stay but still it felt like no problem and I felt like if I wanted to, I could attack them. I felt that good,” Grajales said.

11:28 EDT   
Well its been pouring rain here at the start. All of the riders have been staying in their team cars/buses until the very last moment and scrambling around for their wet weather gear. It really doesn't look like its going to stop for quite a while yet so the guys are in for a wet day.

11:30 EDT   
They only have a few minutes until the start here in the town of Dalton. They roll out of here and hit the 0km mark on the highway. No Neutral laps today.

11:32 EDT   
A reader has written in thought to give us to good news that it will clear up a bit later, so hopefully they'll stay dry in the mountains.

11:35 EDT   
After winning two mountain sprints in the break yesterday younf Lucas Euser (Team TIAA-CREF) is wearing the mountain jersey today. Quite an accomplishment for a young guy. He currently sits two points ahead of Jason McCartney (Discovery).

11:36 EDT   
The sprint classification well and truly belongs to Fast Freddie Rodriguez, helped along by his stage win yesterday. He is 15 points ahead of the next rider, Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel).

11:38 EDT   
Someone has kindly pointed out that I am a bit confused about where I am. We are actually rolling out of Blairsville, not Dalton! Sorry about that.

11:40 EDT   
It turns out that we did do a little bit of a neutral loop but we're out on the road now and have just hit the official race start. Its still raining quite a bit and its about 60 degrees.

11:46 EDT   
Leading the young riders classification is Janez Brajkovic (Discovery Channel). He's also 9th in the overall classification.

11:49 EDT   
We didn't speak to Tom Danielson before the stage. He looked way to nervous to talk to anyone so we'll just let his riding do the talking. Discovery has six riders in the top 15 in GC, so they certainly have the numbers on the climbs to do some damage today and Danielson will not be short of help. Like they said the other day, they don't care which one of their riders wins so we'll see what they come up with today.

11:57 EDT    10km/142.1km to go
The first 80km of the race today are fairly flat. We start in Blairsville and do a clockwise loop of 50km ending up in Blairsville again for the first of two Maxxis sprint points. We'll probably see Freddy go for that just to get a few more points up his sleeve. We are 10km into the race. Freddy has been back at his team car with some kind of issue but he's back in the field now. Floyd stopped for a bit of a nature break but is also back in.

The road is very flat here. Smooth and nice. Just very wet. However we still do have some very brave spectators standing on the side of the road as the race goes by.

12:00 EDT    15km/137.1km to go
The speed has picked up a little in the last few kilometers as a few riders try to attack but Phonak is jumping on everything and nothing is getting away at this point.

12:04 EDT   
We have a break of five riders now including Jason McCartney and Lucas Euser from yesterday. A few riders are trying to bridge.

12:06 EDT   
Also in the group is Matteo Tossato (Quick Step), Kasper Klostergaard Larsen (CSC) and Neil Shirley (Jittery Joe's). The three chasing riders have been caught.

12:09 EDT   
Aaron Olson is also in the group as is Martin Pedersen. Neil Shirley (Jittery Joe's) didn't make it up there and is back in the field. They have 23 seconds on the bunch.

12:13 EDT   
A pretty brave attempt by both Jason McCartney and Lucas Euser. Putting themselves in another situation that could be a very tough day for them. If the break stays away Lucas could try to hold on to that mountain jersey. McCartney is simply being the selfless teammate again.

12:15 EDT   
The gap has increased to over a minute now.

12:20 EDT   
I've just updated the riders in the break. It is Sébastien Rosseler in there, not Tosatto, and Will Frishkorn is also up there with his teammate Euser.

12:22 EDT    35km/117.1km to go
The riders in the break are all working well together and taking even pulls. The peloton is not really chasing at this point. Phonak is ever present on the front without panic.

12:26 EDT   
We are down to 109 riders in the race after yesterday. These riders didn't finish yesterdays stage: Lars Michaelsen (Den) Team CSC, Martin Pedersen (CSC), Luciano André Pagliarini Mendonca (Prodir-Saunier Duval), Francesco Chicchi (Quick Step-Innergetic), Daniel Greenfield (Targetraining), Kyle Wamsley (Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Home Wines), Jeffery Hopkins (Jittery Joe's-Zero Gravity), Peter Lopinto (KodakGallery.Com-Sierra Nevada), Dan Schmatz (KodakGallery.Com-Sierra Nevada).

12:27 EDT    36km/116.1km to go
The gap is up to 2'50" for the break as they go over a dam right now. It's very scenic.

12:32 EDT   
The gap continues to increase. The rain has pretty much come to a stop here. It's still on and off but we've even seen patches of sun. It's primarily overcast though.

An interesting fact in this race is that every team has two cars in the caravan. Because it a hors category race, the UCI rule is that each team must have two cars in the caravan. This hasn't been done in the US before so its something a bit new for the US domestic teams.

12:36 EDT   
Our reporter Kisten Robbins caught up with Cesar Grajales before the start. He said his team (Navigators) is going to lead him to the climb today and he’s going to see what he can do. He thinks he will be able to hang with the top guys "but its such a hard climb, you just don’t know what you’ll be able to do until your on it. If you’re not 100% you won’t be able to get up it," he said.

He does plan on attacking but it just depends on how he’s feeling and what the other guys are doing. "It’s just a matter of finding the right time to go."

He added that every year this race just gets harder. The riders keep getting stronger and stronger so there is a big difference this year to when he won this race two years ago.

12:39 EDT    40km/112.1km to go
3'34" is the latest time gap as the riders go over a few rollers here. Phonak had the team on the front of the peloton just like yesterday. The break continues to work very smoothly.

12:47 EDT   
You'll remember that Jason McCartney was in a break in this stage last year. He ended up with Tim Johnson and the pair of them climbed Hogpen Gap together. Hogpen gap is a tough climb. It's a category one climb and two years ago we saw a lot of action on this climb. Its the first chance for the climbers to see how their climbing legs are.

12:50 EDT   
Last year all the action happened on the last climb. Armstrong actually attacked half way up the climb out of the 15 riders who were left in the front group chasing McCartney and Johnson.

12:53 EDT    52km/100.1km to go
The gap is 3'40" now with 3km to the sprint. Sébastien Rosseler (Quick Step) has flatted in the break but he got a very quick change and is almost back in the group.

12:54 EDT   
He's using the caravan to get back onto the break now.

13:00 EDT    57km/95.1km to go
The break has gone through the Maxxis sprint line. They didn't contest the sprint, but out of interest Will Frischkorn went through first, followed by McCartney and Euser. The break is at 1km to the sprint.

13:01 EDT   
About 25km until the start of the climb now. This year the race goes up Hogpen in the other direction. Its a little steeper from this side from memory and about 6km in length.

13:06 EDT   
Last year we saw Floyd Landis left isolated without any teammates on the final climb after they'd done so much work in the first half of the stage and in the previous stage. Yesterday however the Phonak team director Rene Savary explained that things are different this year. "We have a much better team here this year than last year -- a tougher team. And our leader, from last year to this year, made a big step forward. He is a leader now and he is so motivated and full of self-confidence. We will try everything and we should do it."

13:08 EDT   
Rosseler just had to change his rear wheel again. Apparently the replacement wheel he got before didn't have a climbing cluster on it. It would be a hard day to have to go up these climbs is a 21. Most of the riders here would have at least a 25. Grajales told us this morning he was going to use a 25. Some riders have 27's and even 28's on the rear.

13:17 EDT    65km/87.1km to go
About 15km to the bottom of the climb now. The sky is getting a little darker again but its still dry. The gap has increased to just over four minutes. We'll see what Phonak do here. Yesterday Savary said they kept the gap to about four minutes, never letting it get much over that. They know McCartney is a dangerous guy to let get too far away.

13:21 EDT    70km/82.1km to go
Its 4'35" now. The guys in the break are going over some small rollers in the lead up to the climb. They're still taking pretty even short turns and have a good rhythm going. Our reporter Mark Zalewski is hanging out in the Mavic car today, so a big shout out to the Mavic guys.

13:23 EDT   
The feedzone comes before they start climbing, so the break should be reaching that soon.

13:27 EDT    72km/80.1km to go
The break is going down what officials are calling a dangerous descent now. Its really beautiful here. The roads are quite narrow back roads and very twisty. We are 3km from the feed zone and when they get to the end of the feed zone they only have a kiometer before the climbing starts. Not much time to chow down!

13:36 EDT   
After they descend Hogpen Gap they actually U-turn to head north to the town of Helen and then onto Brasstown Bald. So they actually end up not that far from the town in which they started.

13:39 EDT   
The riders in the break have just started climbing now. The gap is now 4'15". McCartney is leading the climb at this point. Olson sits on the back. It's a little curvy here and pretty steep. Its a consistent 8-10%.

13:40 EDT    81km/71.1km to go
The lead group is splitting up a little. McCartney and Euser have a bit of a gap on the other four riders. They riders are all out of the saddle.

13:40 EDT   
Its a good 150m gap between McCartney and Euser to the others. You can see the two leaders have a bit higher cadence to the other four.

13:41 EDT   
The slope seems to have eased off a little bit. McCartney is seated now. Euser is still out of the saddle. He's the only one able to follow McCartney's pace up here.

13:43 EDT   
McCartney has attacked and dropped Euser. Euser just couldn't hang on anymore.

13:48 EDT    83.7km/68.4km to go
McCartney has about 30 seconds to Euser now. He is seated and has a really nice rhythm. Euser still has 20 seconds on the rest of the break. Euser will lose his KOM jersey now as McCartney is only 2 points behind him. McCartney has 1km to the KOM now.

13:50 EDT   
There's a little flat patch here and then it goes up again for a bit. Back in the field Phonak is on the front as per usual. Just gradually tapping away. Its hard consistent work for them but they are content to bring this back gradually.

13:53 EDT    85km/67.1km to go
McCartney has gone over the KOM now. He has 40 seconds on Euser who still has a good gap on the group of 4. The peloton are 1km from the top.

13:54 EDT   
The top of this climb is 3485ft in elevation. Obviously McCartney took the KOM points, followed by Euser. The gap from McCartney to the field has dropped significantly on this climb and now sits at 2'41".

13:56 EDT   
Actually that gap was between the group of 4 and the field, so McCartney has another 40 seconds. The main field has split into two distinct bunches on this climb.

13:58 EDT   
Will Frischkorn took third place over the KOM followed by Olson and Kasper Klostergaard Larsen. When the field came through Florian Stalder was on the front of the Phonak train. Discovery also has a bit of a separate train going on the climb with Danielson tucked in behind.

14:01 EDT   
Euser actually holds on to his lead in the KOM classification at this point as only one point separated 1st and 2nd place over the mountain and he had 2 points on McCartney before the stage.

14:04 EDT   
McCartney is making time on everyone. Euser has been absorbed by the group of four and they are 2'00" back on Jason. The rest of the field is another 2'00" back on them. Once again McCartney is having a hell of a ride.

14:08 EDT   
At the top of Brasstown Bald at the moment. The crowds are starting to gather. Its quite foggy up there.

14:10 EDT   
4'10" from McCartney to the field now. They are easily reaching speeds of 60m/h on this descent. From the bottom they have about 35km to the top of the next climb which is up Unicoi Gap.

14:15 EDT   
From the start of Unicoi Gap there is really no respite. When they reach the peak, they quickly descend and have to go straight back up. This has got to kill the legs.

14:18 EDT   
The guys in the Mavic rider has just given Larsen a squirt of chain lube whilst he was riding along. The five guys in the break are working evenly again. They are 2'15" behind McCartney. The field is another 2'15" behind them.

14:20 EDT   
McCartney is the leader on the road for the second time in two days. He's making a habit of this. We are going past Joe's Rows Corn Maze on some nice rolling terrain. We are on a bit more of a main road now so its a bit more open.

14:21 EDT   
The gap has fallen again to 4'05". This road is still straight that the peloton can now see the five riders up ahead in the distance.

Its about 70 degrees now so its warming up.

14:26 EDT   
Back in the peloton not much has changed. The Phonak team is on the front setting tempo, just trying to maintain this gap at not much more than four minutes. Floyd looks comfortable as do the other GC riders.

14:30 EDT   
The gap between the five chasers and the field is only 1'20 now so they're coming back a bit. We are not far from the second Maxxis Sprint. McCartney has 3'00".

14:31 EDT    115km/37.1km to go
McCartney has gone through the sprint line in the town of Helen. The group of five are 200m from the sprint but they're not contesting it. There's a nice crowd at the sprint line.

14:34 EDT   
This road runs along a river. There's some people fishing. It has some small rapids and apparently people do a lot of tubing here in the summer. The town also has its fair share of putt putt golf courses. Quite a place to visit!

14:36 EDT   
Phonak is bringing this down quite a lot now. Its 2'25 from McCartney to the field now. The group of five are two minutes behind McCartney.

14:38 EDT    118km/34.1km to go
Olson just sat up. Its looks like that group of four is going to sit up and wait for the field. We're in a wooded section along the river. The road surface is really nice along here.

14:41 EDT    119km/33.1km to go
The peloton is just about to catch the group of five. Not long until we hit the base of the climb now. It probably starts going up in a couple of kilometers.

The group of five has just been caught as we enter Chatahoochee National Forest. Phonak has 6 guys setting pace on the front.

14:48 EDT   
McCartney is no longer the leader on the road. He's 2'10" down on GC and Phonak has just brought the gap down to under two minutes.

14:51 EDT   
One minute is the gap now and its coming down. TIAA CREF is on the front of the peloton now chasing McCartney. The want to get Euser back up there to get some KOM points.

14:52 EDT   
We are on the climb. The roads are quite wide here. It's a steady consistent climb but the pavement is better here and a lot wider. The turns are not so sharp, at least at the bottom.

Phonak is back on the front taking back over the pace setting.

14:53 EDT   
A Prodir rider has attacked out of the field.

14:57 EDT    125.5km/26.6km to go
McCartney is 1km from the top of the climb. He's working hard here.

Alberto Fernandez De La Puebla Ramos was the Prodir rider but he is sitting up and going back to the field.

15:00 EDT   
400m to the top of the KOM for McCartney. He has his grimace on again and occasionally sticks his tongue out in concentration.

15:01 EDT   
When he reaches the top he will be on equal KOM points with Euser - thats if Euser reaches the top in second place.

15:04 EDT   
Pieter Mertens (Davitamon Lott) attacks out of the field before the top of the KOM and took second place points. He has now caught McCartney on the descent. Phonak riders took third and fourth place over the top so Euser is no longer the KOM leader. McCartney has taken over.

15:04 EDT   
Pieter Mertens and McCartney have about 20 seconds on the field as they go down this very fast descent. The roads are very smooth and its not a very twisty descent.

15:06 EDT    132km/20.1km to go
McCartney and Mertens have been caught on the descent. It's all together. The main group is about 70 riders strong and its moving pretty quickly down the descent.

15:07 EDT   
They have a bit of rolling terrain and then they hit the big one. Here comes the exciting part of the race.

15:10 EDT   
15km to the finish now. You can see Brasstown Bald over the top of the tree line as we make this turn. The peloton is all strung out with Phonak on the front.

15:13 EDT    140km/12.1km to go
We are about 5km from the base of the climb. The road is getting narrower. The field is still strung out.

15:18 EDT   
10km to go until the top of the climb. Phonak is on the front still setting pace. They have to keep this as fast as they can to prevent attacks, but they're bound to come anyway when they get on to climb.

15:22 EDT   
We have good crowds at the top and the weather is good. They are just on a small climb. Gutierrez has attacked but he has been covered by Phonak.

15:25 EDT   
The lead group is very small already. Only 12 riders left up there now. Zabriskie has been dropped from the group and in a small group behind.
In the front group is Danielson, Popovych and Brajkovic from Discovery, Landis Stalder and Tschopp from Phonak.

15:26 EDT   
Also in the group is Fernandez, Pinotti from Prodir, Jurgen Van De Walle from Quick Step, Cesar Grejales (Navigators) and Justin England (Toyota United).

15:27 EDT   
Correction Tschopp is not up there, it is Jose Enrique Gutierrez Cataluna.

15:28 EDT   
Discovery is setting the pace in the group. One of the Gutierrez Cataluna's has lost contact from the Phonak team.

15:31 EDT   
One Discovery rider down, two left. Popovych is leading the pace. Grajales has been dropped. He is 75m behind the leaders.

15:31 EDT    148.5km/3.6km to go
About 3.5km from the top. It gets really steep here.

15:33 EDT   
Danielson is sitting behind Popovych. He is out of the saddle. Floyd is behind him. 3km to go. We are doing a tough switchback now. When you go around here you can see the summit in the distance. Its really steep here. They're all out of the saddle climbing. Danielson has attacked. Floyd has gone with him.

15:34 EDT   
Danielson and Landis are alone together. Popovych has actually caught back on now and is back on the front setting the pace.

15:34 EDT   
Landis looked to easily cover Danielson's attack that time.

15:36 EDT    150km/2.1km to go
Floyd is attacking this time. But Danielson grabs his wheel. They are both out of the saddle. They have 2km to go. They are side by side.

15:36 EDT   
Landis is attacking again!

15:37 EDT   
Danielson has responded. Now they're talking to each other. That would be an interesting conversation.

15:38 EDT    150.1km/2km to go
They're side by side again. They are still out of the saddle. They are just now at 2km to go.

15:39 EDT   
Danielson tries again but he can't get rid of Floyd. popovych made it back to the two and immediately attacked. Landis covered it. Grajales is also making his way back!

15:39 EDT   
Popvych is a fighter. He is getting dropped a little but he's coming back.

15:41 EDT   
Popovych has attacked again and has a small gap ahead of Landis. Grajales is back with Danielson and Landis.

15:41 EDT   
They are at 1km to go. Grajales is setting the pace from Landis and Danielson.

15:42 EDT   
They are inside the final kilometer. Popvych is in the lead. He is alone. He is still seated but is fighting.

15:43 EDT   
He still has 50m on Landis and danielson. Grajales is another 10m behind them.

15:43 EDT   
Popo is still seated and is about to hit the turn. He is out of the saddle now making the turn and then he sits again.

15:44 EDT   
He is looking behind him. He gets out of the saddle. He has 300m to go.

15:44 EDT   
Danielson is attacking Landis now!

15:45 EDT   
200 to go. Danielson is making up ground. Landis is with him. They have caught Popovych. Danielson attacks!

15:45 EDT   
Floyd comes back, he looks at Floyd and attacks. Danielson comes back though and starts his sprint. He takes the win from Floyd.

15:46 EDT   
They finish on the same time!

15:46 EDT   
Popo finishes just behind and Grajales comes in a bit later.

15:48 EDT   
What an amazing finish. even with time bonuses it looks like Floyd will hold on to the lead but we'll have to wait until the official call.

15:52 EDT   
We've just heard that there are no time bonuses today, so Floyd retains the lead!

15:56 EDT   
Thanks for tuning in. We'll be back very shortly with the full results and report. Tomorrow is the final stage. It's 190km from Cumming to Alpharetta with only one cat 3 climb. A stage for the sprinters and one that is unlkely to affect the overall.



1 Tom Danielson (Discovery)
2 Floyd Landis (Phonak)
3 Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery)         
4 Cesar Grajales (Navigators)  
General Classification

1 Floyd Landis (Phonak)
2 Tom Danielson (Discovery)
3 Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery)

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