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Tour de Georgia - Update from Chris Wherry
By Staff
Date: 4/18/2007
Tour de Georgia - Update from Chris Wherry
We catch up with a tired but very happy Chris Wherry after the end of stage 2 where Toyota-United team put plan A into action.

by Lyne Lamoureux

In Stage 1 of the 2007 Tour de Georgia from Peachtree City to Macon, Georgia, the 116 riders faced tremendous winds averaging more than 28 miles per hour for the 98.5-mile course (158.6 km).

A concerted chase by the Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team didn’t bring back a five-man breakaway but the effort did deliver Ivan Dominguez to a fifth place finish, second in the field sprint to Ryder Hesjedal (Health Net presented by Maxxis) as the peloton arrived in Macon one minute and 22 seconds behind stage winner Daniele Contrini (Tinkoff Credit Systems). Doug Ollerenshaw (Health Net) and Valery Kobzarenko (Navigators Insurance Cycling Team), who were in the original break, finished second and third, respectively.

The riders departed for Stage 2, from Thomaston, Ga under sunny skies, for longest stage of the week at 135-mile finishing in Rome with a two circuits climbing repeatedly the steep incline of Clocktower Hill.

Austin King (Jittery Joe’s) made his move early by breaking away from the field at the 20-mile mark in race. He was later joined by Alan Chadwick (Navigators Insurance) and Garrett Peltonen (Priority Health). Peltonen faded from the group with nearly 15 miles remaining in the race, and King dropped back to the pack shortly after. With 25 km to go Chadwick buried himself in the effort but was reabsorbed by the charging peloton just as he had started the first of three final circuits.

In a perfectly timed move, Serbian National Professional Champion Ivan Stevic of the Toyota-United Pro Cycling team burst away from a pack of 80 riders up the 20 percent grade of Clocktower Hill and hung on the final 800 meters for a Stage Two victory. Top sprinters Juan Jose Haedo (Team CSC) finished second and Fred Rodriguez (Predictor-Lotto) finished third in the stage, two seconds behind the winner.

Toyota-United team signing in for the first stage of the Tour de Georgia
Photo c. Lyne Lamoureux

Lyne: What happened during stage one (Peachtree City to Macon) on Monday?

Chris: We didn't get very good time checks and I don't know if that came from the race organization or it was just the riders that didn't get the best communication so I think that everybody was pretty surprised when the time gap grew so quickly. With the extreme tail wind that we had and with the time gap that was that high, it was definitely sort of a panic situation. It is very hard to bring a breakaway back when everybody is going 55 to 60 kms an hour. You know it was unfortunate that there was some miscommunication. Team CSC started out chasing and they asked several teams to join them and help out, and some teams were trying to get more information and they decided that they thought that everybody else didn't want to pull and so they stopped pulling and then it was like everybody was kind of out of luck,. It was unfortunate that we just misjudged it and we talked about that today obviously and that we weren't going to let it happen again.

Toyota-United driving the peloton in the circuits of Macon
Photo c. Lyne Lamoureux

Lyne: What was the mood in today's team meeting before the start of stage 2 (Thomaston to Rome)?

Chris: It was ... let's forget about yesterday and moving on to today and let's try to get a win. That is our goal for this stage race, it is to at least get one stage win and you know everybody was focused on today. The only thing we could do is just learn from yesterday's mistake, everybody said 'let's not let this happen again' and we move forward. And it played every well for us.

Lyne: Tell me about today's stage? Was this plan A or plan B?

Chris: It was definitely plan A. If a break went away with 6 or 8 guys, then we were just going to let it go, and try to bring it back towards the finish. It was only a three-man breakaway and they got a lot of time pretty quickly because the group was going pretty slow but once we got on the front with Discovery and with the Tinkoff team, the gap just consistently kept coming down. Other teams kept sort of rotating in towards the end, but myself & Burke just kept things rolling, we wanted to make sure that the breakaway was pulled in before the circuits, and I think that we actually caught the last rider before we entered the first circuit. That was the plan today, it was a success and we made it happen and then Mr. Stevic went and paid us back for all our efforts today, so it was pretty exciting for us.

Ivan Stevic driving to the win
Photo c. Lyne Lamoureux

Lyne: Did Caleb Manion also attack on the Clocktower before Ivan Stevic pulled away?

Chris: Caleb knows the finishes here very well and I think he has had a couple of pretty high placings here in the finish and he knew exactly where he needed to be. And so Stevic told me that he came by and said 'hey, come with me' and grabbed him. What may have looked like Caleb attacking was him really trying to put Ivan into position and he dropped him off in the right spot and Stevic just did an exceptional job. From what I hear, he went over the climb so fast that he immediately put bike lengths into everybody else (chuckling).

Lyne: Tell me about the collaboration between the teams to reel in the breakaway?

Chris: I think that Tinkoff really wanted to hold on to the jersey for another day and Discovery definitely has aspirations for the overall victory and so it was nice to see that there were some teams that were in collaboration. Even CSC team was looking to see it come down to a field sprint so they had some guys in the last 40 to 50 kms of the race. It was good that there was a little bit more collaboration. I know that yesterday everybody was a little bit disappointed, well obviously except for Tinkoff.

Lyne: Was anyone from Toyota United involved in the crash? Do you know what happened?

Chris: No, we didn't have anybody crash today, I was obviously in the front so I don't even have an idea who went down or how that crash happened.

Lyne: Does this win take the pressure of the team?

Chris: Absolutely. We still definitely want to have a good race for the rest of the race but now that the pressure is off, we can just go and have fun and I think that we are a team that always has fun together and when we are having fun we race better so it is going to be a good rest of the Tour for us.

Ivan Stevic on the first step of the podium with Freddie Rodriguez and JJ Haedo
Photo c. Lyne Lamoureux

Lyne: What is the plan for tomorrow, stage 3 (Rome to Chattanooga)?

Chris: Tomorrow is a new stage and nobody really knows it and I heard it is difficult especially the last climb is supposedly very hard, and so you know for 80% of our team it is going to be just survival and make sure that you get to the finish, and for Justin & Chris and I think Stevic is riding exceptionally well right now, he's good and he's got the possibility to make it over the climbs and he's very quick. Those guys get to go play tomorrow and the rest of us are just going to try and make to the timecut.

Lyne: What can you tell me about the contenders after two days of racing?

Chris: I think that Levi Leipheimer & Tom Danielson are both very good, you could tell because they have been up in the stage finishes. With fast finishes for two very good climbers to be there in the finish is I think a good sign that they are both going well. I'm not really certain from the other teams. I am sure from Health Net that Nathan O'Neill and Ryder Hesjedal are looking to have a good ride and I don't know a lot of the Europeans and how well they are going. Tinkoff only started with six riders but I'm sure that Tyler Hamilton is going to try to have a good race so we'll have to see.

Chris Wherry coming up Clocktower
Photo c. Lyne Lamoureux

Lyne: How are you feeling Chris? You looked cooked coming up the Clocktower today?

Chris: I was pretty tired. Burke and I were both pretty tired, When we heard that Stevic won, 10% at least of our tiredness went away, we were very excited for him and it is always great when you work that hard for that long and then you get paid back. It was great for Stevic to win today and we got a good meal in us , got some good massages and so hopefully tomorrow is going to be okay. (ed: and some champagne probably helped too).

A very happy Ivan Stevic
Photo c. Lyne Lamoureux

We will catch up with Chris later this week to get an update on the Toyota-United team and comments on the overall race.

All photos copyright by Lyne Lamoureux

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Tour de Georgia - Interview with Chris Wherry

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