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Tour de Georgia Stage 4 Predictions
 
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 4/26/2003
Tour de Georgia Stage 4 Predictions
 

April 26 - Stage Four: Dalton to Gainesville, 122 miles

Today's stage most likely will provide the final selection of the podium for the Dodge Tour of Georgia. The weather is predicted as "mostly cloudy, highs in the lower to mid 70s. Northwest winds 10 to 15 mph." An almost perfect day for racing through the mountains of north Georgia.

A 122 mile (196 km) stage awaits with approximately 6000 ft of climbing; with climbs that average six to seven percent with sections at 17%, it will be a day that divides the peloton and will most likely shatter the riders into chasing groups. The teams will all seek to bring their leaders to the finish and set up the mountain assault to gain time or preserve their position. Riding in support of the team leader the domestiques will sacrifice themselves in the initial climbs to conserve and protect their leader, this effort will continue until they have sacrificed all they have.

The race begins after three laps around Dalton, leaving the festival atmosphere of the beginning circuit to hit the roads hard only fifteen miles out of Dalton. After a few rollers the road goes straight up with a 2000 ft climb in eight miles to the first King of the Mountains sprint at Fort Mountain State Park. Shortly before the climb begins at Chatsworth the first points sprint takes place.

After a five mile descent and a few rollers, the peloton will approach the last series of climbs to the top of Woody Gap and the second Mountain King sprint. Early attacks at the first climb would not surprise, though early breaks are rarely successful; we could see the first fracturing of the peloton early on in the race. The real action should start shortly after the points sprint at Ellijay or in the first feed zone seven miles later.  

A quick look at the G.C. shows that enough class riders are within striking distance of the Yellow Jersey to make it a rough day for the leaders. In fact, sixty five riders are separated by a mere minute, and with a hard fast day with a final selection at hand many of the riders in this range could challenge for the leader's jersey. An old rivalry of Chris Horner's and Henk Vogels' is in full bloom and Vogels, a talented all rounder, should match Horner and Saturn wheel to wheel to hold onto his leader's jersey.

Almost a year ago, Chris Horner (at the time with Prime Alliance) won the Sea Otter Classic when he succeeded in escaping from Henk Vogels (then Mercury) on the finishing climbs of the road race.  Chris Horner and his Saturn teammates will do all they can to unseat Vogels and the Navigators. Vogels and the Navigators should play the waiting game, forcing Saturn to chase the attacks once again and save Henk Vogels' efforts for the final miles.

Saturn's aces in hand Horner, Nathan O'Neill and Tom Danielson will make a formidable triumvirate, assuming they can stay unified if Horner falters. Remember, the early season has seen the Saturn trio trade the leader's jerseys amongst them in the early stage races on the West Coast.

After Friday's stage when the Navigators forced Saturn to work to pull back the break, a tactic Horner criticised, expect Horner et. al. to play their cards tight, and to attack late in the final climbs to take the lead. If I recall correctly at Sea Otter last year, it was Horner and Prime Alliance who forced Mercury to chase in the final stage to protect Henk Vogels' second place before Prime Alliance joined in the chase.

One can't forget that the Navigator's have their own aces within seconds of the G.C. in Jeff Louder and Chris Baldwin - both capable of supporting Henk or taking the heat if their mate Vogels falters. Vogels is a capable climber when required, witnessed by his chasing back twice after flat tires during the San Francisco Grand Prix last year over the bitterly steep climbs and finishing with the lead group.

The ever present and original tough guy John Lieswyn (7Up/Maxxis) has the super Dougie Ziewacz and Kevin Monahan within 36 seconds to lend support, and John is a present danger to any G.C. in a stage race when he is in striking distance in the mountains.

Prime Alliance sports Klinger, Pate, Decanio (fresh off a stage win at Sea Otter), Candelario, Peters and Svein Tuft are all within the top forty second window. Having taken hold of the top team honors after Friday's stage, Pate, Decanio and Klinger could be the major threats on a mountain stage of this type. Jonathan Vaughters could be the spark that lights the fire. After a crash on the prologue Jonathan, four minutes down, could raise an attack or force the climbing pace for a Pate victory. Prime Alliance has position and the talent to make a major commotion and challenge both Vogels and Horner on this mountainous route.

Lest we forget, US Postal has several formidable riders (no strangers to the rigours of the final stages) and Roland Green (Trek/VW riding Postal), in fine form, is not to be underestimated along with his team mates, Michael Barry, David Zabriskie, Damon Kluck and Floyd Landis. Landis, still on the mend and on track to join Lance Armstrong for a Tour de France berth, is only 50 seconds down - more than impressive, just awesome!

Scott Guyton, Jamie Drew and Alan Iucone of Flanders-IteamNova are in the top minute; racing in Belgium is not the preparation one needs to prepare for this stage and I expect they will not likely challenge in this stage, but I could be wrong. More likely, Flanders' tactic will be limiting losses for the with an eye on a stage victory on Sunday.

Meza, McRae, Livingston, Jankowiak, Jakob Erker, Bausch and Pete Knudsen of Shroeder Iron, also all within the "miracle minute" could provide fireworks as Frankie Andreu, their new Directeur Sportif,  pulls the best from the men of Iron for this stage. Certainly, Jankowiak, Erker, Knudsen and Mcrae, all capable climbers, could make a hard day for Saturn, Prime Alliance and the visiting Italian and Dutch teams.

Ofoto/Lombardi Sports, a growing domestic threat, has David O'Laughlin, Tim Larkin, Saul Raisin, Peter Roman, Andy Bajadali, Russel Hambey and Captain Eric Saunders inside the sixty second mark. Among these, Hamby, Bajadali, Larkin and Saunders are excellent climbers. Saunders is a rider with Continental experience and palmares that show he can mix it with the best. Ofoto is a team ready to step into the spotlight, we can wait with anticipation to see if this is the day they will make their mark.

Sidermec, with Fast Fred Rodriquez, has Mauro Gerosa, Gabrielle Balducci, and Mauro Radelli living in the fast lane with him. Stinging from a 20 second time penalty that would have put Fred in the top four, revenge would be sweet for Freddie to gain more time during this stage. Saturday will make the call for redemption to the hard man in gentleman Fred.  With Balducci, Radelli and De La Fuente, Freddie should have the support he needs in the mountains; can he parlay that into gaining time on the Saturn triad?

Grischa Niermann, Ronald Musaars, Kevin Deweert, and Marten Den Bakker of Rabobank are in the select sixty-five - one would not count them out.

Jelly Belly with three riders in the "minute" - Brooks, Wilkerson and Fitzgerald - are followed by Mariano Friedick. Friedick is a strong and aggressive climber just outside the "minute;" they could make their mark if Mariano can find his legs in the mountains today.

Jittery Joe's will need a cup or two of their "Riders Blend" to support Chad Hartley as he rides to win the U-23 best young rider. Perhaps Jonny Sundt, better known for his hard riding in XC racing, will be a help at only fifty seconds down.

Some notable young guns and climbers lie lower down the G.C. who might be allowed to gain time in a breakaway as they might not be considered a threat. One of these and an excellent climber is carrying the lanterne rouge at the moment, neo pro young Michael Jones of the West Virginia team.

Others of note in the climbing and high on the aggressive side are: Adham Sbeih (Sierra Nevada), Moreno DiBiase (FPF), Bobby Traksel (Rabobank), David Mc Kenzie (Flanders), Ciaran Powers (Navigators), Jos Pronk (Ned), and Nathan Russell (Col) each capable of a surprise inclusion in making a break or arriving at the finish improving their G.C. position. Don't be surprised to see these names in a break today.

With so much international class this queen stage is likely to select the winner; today will be the toughest day in a fast and tough week. The prize is to forever have your team and name carved in the record books as the first winner of the inaugural Tour of Georgia, a prestigious honor. Desire, effort, teamwork and strategy will decide the winner. The stage is set, the riders have taken their positions. Let the race begin!

 
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Dodge Tour de Georgia Stage Two: Updated
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