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Dodge Tour de Georgia Pre-TT Chats Updated
By Marianne Werz O'Brien
Date: 4/23/2004
Dodge Tour de Georgia Pre-TT Chats Updated

See Craig Lewis update below, by his photo.

Wandering around the parking lot before the time trial was great! Most of the teams and riders were very accessible.

I ran into Ofoto rider Erik Saunders, who was warming up by riding around the parking lot. I asked Erik if he raced track, because he looked very familiar to me. Turns out that yes, he was the rider I remembered from the Track Nationals at Trexler Town last fall! He and Jackson Stewart are National Champions in the Madison.

Bad Boy Erik Saunders at McLane Pacific last month.
Photo by Daily Peloton. Click for larger image.

I asked Erik if he preferred actual riding to warm up using a trainer:

“I’d rather have a trainer, but logistically it’s hard for a smaller team like ours. Especially in a day with two stages. So there isn’t a trainer, but you know what? For me this time trial is just going to be about not getting time cut. So it’s all good, I’ll do fine.”

When I mentioned that Daily Peloton was saying his teammate Jackson Stewart had the ride of the day Erik replied,  “Jackson was super – he was absolutely incredible because we weren’t going slow and the gap wasn’t coming down at all. I know how much that hurt, because I’ve done that before.”

“All the guys in the peloton came up to me during the stage came up and said, ‘What is with Jackson?’ and I said he had a monster energy drink before the ride! He showed a lot of guts and determination.”

I also talked to Tim Johnson, Saunier Duval-Prodir, and asked him about his heart rate for the time trial:

“Today probably in the last 2k I personally will probably have my heart rate around 195. My max rate is about 203. So I’ll be riding in the red then, but on the climb I try not to ride in the red zone, because the climb is long enough, and there’s enough distance to the finish that if you do ride in the red you are going to be in trouble.”

Tim was busy taping his helmet up, so I had to ask, why?

“In years past the helmets didn’t have to be crash proof and ANSI approved. We don’t have our new ANSI approved helmets so now I’m using the old trick. By taping across the air vents, the air should hopefully glide over the helmet.”

Tim also noted when I mentioned writing for DP that the Daily Peloton is where the riders are always getting rated on their Hotness Quotient! And somehow HE was not included – I wish I had been fast enough on my feet to say it was all for his sake, because we didn’t want to upset his lovely lady - the Quark rider Lyne Bessette! Alas, I wasn’t...

We can attest that Tim Johnson has hotness to spare...
Photo by Marianne Werz O'Brien. Click for larger image.

Sierra Nevada rider Ben Jacques-Maynes is nursing a really nasty divot out of his left knee. “Remnants from Redlands, I was caught in the crash on stage one. But I’m slowly recovering and ready for Georgia.”

Do you think the Euro pros have impacted the race?

“Absolutely. The average speeds are much higher, and we race full out. Everyone is much more motivated. All the American teams that were invited - and not all the American teams got invited - are going as best as they can. We are seeing all of the best American riders here in the race, racing against the Euros. We’re holding our own, I would say, so far.”

Ben continued, “Especially the sprinter's teams. We’re putting on a really good show for the first couple stages. Gord Fraser going up against Cipollini and having a really good finish – it’s good to see. We have top racing here, and our guys know how to do it.”

The stage 3 riders coming into Rome, Georgia. Photo by Celia Cole.

You are one of the later riders to start in the time trial – which means you are doing well, right?

“Which means I’ve been up in a couple of sprints, been up in a couple top 10 finishes but nothing spectacular. The hillier finishes are serving me well; I can fight and hold my own on that. The flat stage yesterday really wasn’t my cup of tea.”

How do you feel about the upcoming mountain stages?

“Those are what I’m shooting for. I’d like to hang with the front group but with CSC here, I’m sure they are going to try to blow it apart tomorrow. I think I would still be happy if I finish in the second group, but I’m hoping to move up the GC tomorrow.”

“The big day is going to be Saturday. There’s going to be a five-minute gap then. I haven’t seen Brasstown, but I’ve heard it is absolutely brutal. Miles and miles of the steepest climbing you can get your hands on. I’m steeling myself for it, and for the pain that is sure to come.”

Once you get to the top?

“Once you get to the top, you have a chance to look around. See the other riders come in and check how you rode against them. Everyone will be hurting then. You get to the top and think about your ride, how you could have improved it. You also get to measure your ride against these guys you’ve been reading about.”

Ben was the 97th rider out of the gate for the time trial. Considering it’s reverse order of the overall GC, Ben has been having a great race so far. After all – there were only 112 riders in the time trial, so he was cruising in at 15th overall before the time trial!

US Postal rider Damon Kluck said he wouldn’t be riding hard, he was just shooting for making the time cut. As he put it “Lance is the deal, we have to save our energy to help him.”

US Postal-Berry Floor's strong man Damon Cluck. Photo by Marianne O'Brien.
Click for larger image.

The Stage 3 sprint finish. Photo by Celia Cole.

My final contact for the day was a phone call from none other than Ofoto’s Jackson Stewart! The man who put in the ride of the day with a huge solo breakaway that lasted for almost two thirds of stage 3, only finally getting caught in the first lap around Rome! Jackson told me that he decided to take the risk of going out solo for a stage win because he thought it unlikely that anyone else would try it on a two-stage day.

He also thought that a single man out might just escape the attention of the peloton, and if he could get enough time maybe he could take the stage. The previous days had been ridden more tempo, but today the Domina boys were drilling it - riding hard and chasing. Jackson thought if he could get up the climb he could gain even more time on the descent, and he managed a two-minute lead over the peloton that held for some time.

He was understandably disappointed that he hadn’t been able to stay away, but his effort was surely noticed and his sponsor has to be happy at all the publicity his Herculean effort garnered! Jackson is not only a roadie, he rides cyclocross and track as well.

Ofoto teammate Erik Saunders talked Jackson into riding track with him, and good thing it was!  Saunders and Jackson won the Track National Championship (Madison) last fall at T-town. Jackson was sounding more than a little sleepy, so I wished him a good rest and recovery before tomorrow’s mountain stage.

More Photos from Yesterday

Jelly Belly's Ben Brooks, who was third on Stage 3. Photo by Marianne O'Brien.
Click for larger image.


Lance Armstrong riding the Stage 4 Time Trial. Photo by Celia Cole.


Armstrong after Stage 3. Photo by Celia Cole.


High cuteness quotient U23 rider Craig Lewis. He retired yesterday after a crash in the TT. Photo by Marianne O'Brien. Click for larger image.

Update on Craig Lewis:

Yesterday during the Stage 4 Time Trial, TIAA Cref/5280 rider Craig Lewis was hit by a motor vehicle that was not supposed to be on the roadway. Apparently the driver has been charged with a traffic violation.

Craig broke ribs that punctured his lungs and has a concussion. Though his injuries are serious and his hospital stay is expected to be four or five days, the team reports that he is in good spirits. According to local reports today, DS Jonathan Vaughters visited him this morning, and Craig, who was communicating by writing on a chalkboard, asked Vaughters how soon he could get back on his trainer. Rich Hincapie of Hincapie Sports, who is good friends with the Spartanburg, South Carolina native, also visited him and said he is in very good spirits. We wish Craig the best for a speedy recovery.


Team cars...Photo by Marianne O'Brien. Click for larger image.


Lance on the podium. Photo by Celia Cole.

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