|Final words before the showdown in Georgia from Tyler Hamilton, Tom Danielson, Levi Leipheimer, Ben Jacques-Maynes,
Ryder Hesjedal and other participating Tour partners
by Lyne Lamoureux
Ben Jacques-Maynes, Priority Health Cycling Team Presented by Bissell
leader in NRC (National Race Calendar) standings
On his new team and his successes this year:
"For me, I've been focusing on time trials, and I've had some really good success obviously at Tour of California
and also other domestic level races that we've had this spring.
I wish that we had a prologue here, but the long time trial that we have is something to look forwards to as well.
I don't really think I did anything different, I think my head is on a little straighter
with the new Priority Health team and I have something else to work for now –
I have one child and another one on the way right now so my motivation is not so much about me but
what I can do to earn my paycheck to support my family." (note Ben's baby is due July 30th).
On his decision to keep on racing:
"The family issue really brought things to a head and I had to make the decision about
whether I could still make cycling work and fortunately with Priority Health I have been able to do that.
And I'm looking forwards to a couple of more years at the very least."
On his approach to the Tour de Georgia and Brasstown Bald:
"I think for me I pick my battles and Brasstown is not my battle.
I think that Tom weighs about 50 pounds less than me so I'll climb as hard as I can but you can
look way down the finish sheet for me on that one.
I had some decent success on sprint finishes here last year and so I'll focus on that again and then obviously
the time trial. We actually have a really good sprinter, Emile Abraham, and we're going to try
and put him out for a couple of finishes. So you may not see my name on some of the results but it doesn't
mean that I am not racing."
Ivan Dominguez, Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team,
with 7 wins so far in 2007, 3rd on NRC standings
On his perspective of jostling while sprinting at 55 kms per hour : "Well, you go that kind of speed, you don't see too many guys bumping around,
at like 100 meters from the finish. For me, I'm always looking for the safest place to go,
I'm not the kind of guy that likes to be in the mix fighting for wheels,
and I prefer to go a safe way and try to see if I can make it."
With all the mountain stages, his strategy to survive as a sprinter:
"I am not a climber so for me for those days I have to try and make it in the second or third group,
try to make the time and go for the next day.
It's not like I'm going to try to be there in the 1st group because I know I can't do it. Plus, even if I am there,
I am going to be dead the next day. I have to try and save my legs for the flat stages, well not really flat."
Tom Danielson then commented: "I was Ivan's teammate on Saturn and he can climb.
He won some stages that were hilly I'm sure."
To which Ivan replied (laughing):
"I don't know which race he's talking about."
Ryder Hesjedal,Health Net Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis,
seven-time World Mountainbike Championships medalist
On his transition from a successful mountain bike racing career to road racing: "Well, it wasn't easy, but it's going well.
I'm pretty pleased already with what I've been able to do in a couple of years on the road.
The challenge is so hard that it keeps me focused."
On the team leadership between Tour de Georgia stalwart Nathan O'Neill and Ryder: "I think this will be the start of Nathan's season and obviously
he'll be working as hard as he can and so will I.
We'll have to see who is the best as the race goes on, and I'm pretty excited
for our team to be pretty competitive and it will be a hard race."
Tyler Hamilton, Tinkoff Credit Systems,
winner of Individual Time Trial, 2004 Athens Olympic Games and stage winner at all three Grand Tours
On his feelings about being back in the US and last races done here: "It feels great. I just arrived last night from Milan with my teammates.
It's really the first time I'm back here in the States since early January.
It's nice to be back and I'm excited. The first thing I've done the Tour de Georgia and
I'm really excited to be here. The last time I raced here was the one day UCI race back in 2001 Grand-Prix of
San Francisco, and before that it was 1999."
On his perspective on the Tinkoff team: "My experience with the team has been great so far,
it's a new team with a lot of young riders. I certainly mess up the average age with my 36 years old,
but without me, I think the average age would be around 24 years old.
It's been great, we've had a pretty strong spring.
I've been more of a leader sort of off the bike I've been struggling a little bit.
I've been sick a little bit, in March I had influenza that turned into bronchitis,
so I suffered a lot in March so I hope to be better here."
Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team
winner 2007 Amgen Tour of California
His thoughts on the team and the three back-to-back mountain stages: "Discovery Channel has a very strong team here,
we have a former winner with Tom, myself with Tour of California victory and Jason McCartney has been very successful at
this race in the past, Jani Brajkovic a very talented up & comer, really a very strong team and
also the return of George Hincapie. We are definitely very focused on the race and looking forwards to it.
The 3 mountain stages, I have to look a little closer, but I know the Brasstown stage is very difficult
and the stage before the TT looks interesting so I'm definitely looking forwards to it."
On his form since Tour of California and the team's approach to the race: "Well, you know California was a very big goal for me and the team.
It's a little bit tricky with the fact that it is the first race of the year and afterwards
I needed to take a bit of a mental break, you know in February that is a little bit odd.
After that, went to Paris-Nice and the first couple of stages, I wasn't really into it
but then after Alberto Contador was riding very strongly and towards the end I felt much better.
We were all really motivated for his win and then again in Castilla y Leon, he won again so
for every race I've done this year we won, so I'd like to keep that streak going."
An update on George Hincapie: "I hadn't seen him since California until last night, and today we rode together and he looks great.
You know George is really a true professional, I know he was at home training as hard as
he could despite a broken arm and he was on the trainer like 3 days after he broke his arm.
I know he took care of himself and rested well, ate well and did as much as he could.
I will just say that he'll be pretty strong here. Of course for us we would really rather watch him
on tv tomorrow because Paris-Roubaix is his thing and it is a huge blow for Discovery Channel not
to have him in the race but you know on the flip side we get him here in Tour de Georgia."
Tom Danielson, Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team
winner of 2005 Tour de Georgia
On the time trial uphill finish: "I am definitely excited about the change for the time trial, I think that the mental approach as a racer
you look at it a little bit different if the finish is on top and you have to save a little bit
for the last 5 k at the end or have to worry about the difficult descent or whatever. So I'm excited,
I enjoyed it last year and it kinds of continues the trend of Tour de Georgia steep climbing.
There is sort of a wall in the middle of hit that is 2.5 to 3kms long, and you need a 25 on
time trial bike to get up so I'm excited about it for sure."
His perspective as a climber on the three mountain stages: "It's great, I love that kind of stuff. It's really exciting to see Brasstown
stage as hard as it this year. It's a lot harder than it was in the last two years
with the Dalton beginning with Fort Mountain so for sure there will be a lot of tired legs
just for that stage, but with the 2 stages before it, we'll sort of create a situation that
you see in GT where they have 3 mountain stages in a row where the last one is where it all goes down.
So I think there will be very big gaps on Brasstown stage and hopefully we benefit from that."
On the CSC vs Discovery Channel battle during Tour of California and if the battle continues: "I think that we have to look at everyone, all the teams,
we have to pick our battles like Ben said and I think we have some big battles coming up with Simoni,
and Millar for the time trial and Tyler here, and Zabriskie with CSC.
So it's not really us versus one team. In that particular race,
they had 3 guys in the top 10, so if they wanted to win that then they really
had to put all the stops and they did. I personally bled through my eyes
that day, stage 6 in the Tour of California from those nice CSC guys. But that is racing and that made it a
phenomenal stage for the fans at home to watch and it made
Levi's win more impressive and from a team perspective that made our performance as a
team that much better. In Tour of California, it was us vs CSC, this race it will be us vs the whole
peloton again and we brought a team to get it done."
Mayor Harold Logsdon, Peachtree City
About the meaning of this race for Peachtree City: "This is a great occasion for Peachtree City, we're excited about it.
We love showing off and being on the world stage makes it even better.
This truly has been a county wide effort from all of the citizens, and the local organizing committee
has done a fantastic job in generating the excitement that I knew would be here.
It has just done a fantastic job and I just want to say a special thanks for Lorne and everybody
else in the local organizing committee for helping showcase Peachtree City which we are very proud of this place.
I want to welcome all the bikers, welcome everybody to Peachtree City, and I hope that
Monday when you guys start racing that you will always remember all the golf carts lined up along
the road watching you guys embark on the first leg of this race."
Chris Clark, Deputy Commissioner for Global Commerce - GDEcD
On the meaning of this race to the state of Georgia: If you go back to 1996, we held a little thing here in Georgia called The Olympics, and
that was really the coming out party for us on the international stage, and since then Georgia has
grown both internationally in the business area and also as a sports destination.
We're excited about what is going to happen this week, we're proud of the communities and we welcome
the riders and the tourist to this state and hope that you enjoy it as much as we do.
Chris Aronhalt, Managing Partner, Medalist Sports
On his perspective on the Tour of Georgia: "We are very proud, this is one of the highest ranking events outside Europe, one
of the only 2 Hors Categorie event along with Tour of California.
We are very proud of that and as we move on we've very focused on the objective that
we are part of and that is to promote the economic development here in the state of Georgia,
to support the initiatives of the Georgia Cancer Coalition and to educate Georgians about
maintaining a health lifestyle. We've very excited about what this support represent throughout the state.
In the fifth year of the Tour de Georgia, we've expanded one day,
we are now 7 days strong, we are now the longest stage race in the US, over 660 miles.
We are pretty proud of the fact that we have accomplished this.
We have 15 teams, 120 riders representing over 23 countries.
Last year, we had over half a million spectators, we hope to see even greater amount this year,
of course expanding not only the days but also geographically covering more parts of the state.
Over 2.3 million spectators that this race has brought in. Last year over 26 million dollar in
economic impact resulting in over 121 million dollars total over past 4 years"
All photos copyright by Lyne Lamoureux