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Reflections on the Tour de Georgia
 
By Marianne Werz O'Brien
Date: 4/26/2004
Reflections on the Tour de Georgia
 

Danny Van Haute, Jelly Belly DS:
“The Tour de Georgia has been great for us! I wish we could come back and do it again next month! Our results have been fantastic; we’ve achieved most of our goals. We just wish we could have a race like this every month!

“The Tour de Georgia is just fantastic. I hope it continues, and it looks like it will. Next year we have the possibility of a Tour of California and a Tour of Texas. I think USA cycling is on the upswing!”


The Jelly Belly car. Click for larger image.

Bob Roll:
“I’ve been quite surprised how difficult it is. It’s a real hard race, and yesterday we drove the course. I just couldn’t believe how steep and long those climbs were. It was a hot, humid day and it was just a totally brutal stage.”

“The day before yesterday was also so hard, with five mountain climbs and the day before that was two stages. A road race in the morning and then a 39-kilometer time trial. Just some really, really hard stages.”

“You see the gaps in GC in the field, from an athletic standpoint the Tour de Georgia has been a big surprise. Last year it wasn’t nearly this hard, and this year has just been really brutal.”


Bob Roll. Click for larger image.

I asked Bob how TdG compares with one week races in Europe:

“This is just as hard as any one week race anywhere in the world – there’s no doubt about that. No doubt at all. There’s no question about that at all. Pais Vasco is as hard, but no harder than Georgia, and that’s the hardest spring stage race so – it’s brutal. I feel bad for the riders, I was glad I was in the car, honestly!”

“That final kilometer of Brasstown Bald was just cruel and inhumane. It’s been good though, athletically it’s been tough and the fans were just awesome. It’s been a really good race, and I’m glad we’re doing it.”

Matteo Algeri, Saunier Duval-Prodir DS:
“It’s a beautiful tour, a good race. On our team we have an American rider, Tim Johnson, who is doing well and using this to prepare for races in Europe also. The course is very hard, there are a lot of difficult climbs.”

“The American teams are strong, I mean we know from Armstrong what an American rider is capable of. The caliber of the riders here is amazing - Armstrong, Johnson, Horner – the best American cyclists are racing. It has been a high quality race, a very good race.”

“Regarding my team – Tim Johnson and the Spanish rider Juan Cobo are doing very well. I am surprised by how well they are doing.”


Matteo Algeri. Click for larger image.

What races will Saunier Duval-Prodir do next?

“Our next races are the Tour of Romandie and the Tour of Italy. One part of the team will ride in Italy; the other will cover the Spanish races. Then we will be at Philly, and for Philly we will bring the whole team.”

The Jelly Belly Boys:
How did you survive Brasstown Bald?

“It was hard, very hard.”

“There was one part on that climb where someone wrote on the road “Look up!” and I looked up and saw the top of the mountain. I was like – oh man, that’s mean! I put it out of my mind, I thought nah, that’s not the top, we’ll finish further down than that!”


The Jelly Belly boys.

“Yesterday was hard. It looked a lot bigger when we were driving down than it seemed going up. I think you just shut off thinking, you just had to forget about it and just do it. It was ridiculously hard.”

“The last 500 meters were something else... I felt like I had actually stopped at the time. I mean, I got eleventh on the stage and I was passing guys that were just all over the road. They were going from side to side trying to get up it... I was in a 25 and I needed something bigger than that, like a 27 or 29.” (Adam Bergman)

“It was just the noise that kept you going, the fans screaming and cheering.”

Imanol Ayestaran, Webcor Builders:
How did you survive Brasstown Bald?

“It was hard, because the day before was so long, with so many climbs. So the legs were already a little tired. The last climb yesterday was very hard, it was eight kilometers of very difficult climbing.”

“But is was good for our team, good for Horner, he is strong. He is as strong as the European riders. The team all rode well. We have been doing well all season. We have done very well in all the stateside stage races, and we are the strongest domestic team here.”

“Chris Horner is the best rider in America.”


Imanol Ayestaran. Click for larger image.

Justin England – Webcor Builders:
“It’s been fantastic! It’s been amazing to be a part of it. This is the first big stage race I’ve ever been in, and it’s just been an incredible experience for me. I’ve been having a blast, helping Chris as much as I can, and enjoying the show down here!”

How about yesterday?
”It went really well. Chris did all he could. Chris had a great ride. He rode as hard as he could, got fourth place. You know I think he was hoping for a little bit better than that but he still had a great ride, and I was able to pull off ninth. So I was really happy about that.”

I have a picture of you coming across the finish line.

“With the ugly face on? Grimacing?” (he laughs) “I grew up in North Carolina so I’m used to the heat and humidity, but I think a lot of the guys aren’t used to it and they suffered.”


Justin England. Click for larger image.


England coming in on Stage 6.

Jed Schneider, Jittery Joe’s:

“The race is pretty good, fun, really hard I would say. Maybe too hard, you know? Because no one wanted to really race the first three days knowing that everything would be so hard after that, so... “

Have you recovered from yesterday?

“No,” he says laughing, “Give me ten days, maybe then. The crowds are fantastic though – best crowds I’ve ever seen at a bike race. Ten thousand people on Brasstown is pretty amazing!”

What are your next races?

“There are a couple criteriums in Atlanta next weekend, one in Anniston and then one in Roswell. I won’t be doing the South Carolina Heritage series because they are mid-week. Maybe Joe Martin.”

Jackson Stewart, Ofoto:
“I think it’s great! This is the biggest race in America. We don’t really have any other races that compare. As far as I’m concerned I’m pretty happy with the Tour de Georgia because we don’t have anything else this big, and just to have this race is good for us.”


Jackson Stewart. Click for larger image.

Jason Bausch, Ofoto:
“Actually, I love it! I think it’s been put together very well. I mean – hey, if you don’t know Georgia, this is a good way to see it.”  (his teammates burst into laughter and one says “that’s why it’s called the Tour of Georgia, man!”)

“Next year it would be nice if they cut the travel time, though.”

Russell Hamby, Sierra Nevada:
“I think it’s a great race! I am so glad they got it all organized and got it together again this year. I did it last year and it was just really well organized, the hotels were incredible, and the racing is really good. We need more events like this in the United States for sure.

“Racing from one town to another is just really fun, instead of just doing criteriums and circuit races like we tend to do a lot of here. It’s just really great. Having some of the teams we have here is just amazing. Really it reminds me of the days of the Tour of Dupont back when I was just getting starting to get on my bike. I’m really enjoying it.”

Russell went straight from the finish line of yesterday’s stage to medical to get an IV put in his arm because he was so dehydrated.


Russell Hamby. Click for larger image.

Jason McCartney, Healthnet presented by Maxxis:
“It’s been good to me! I’ve had my ups and downs but it’s all worked out really well. It’s been good for the team as well, we’ve all just jelled together really well. It’s been a really good experience, it’s been incredible. Everyone has come up another level and it’s been really fun.”

Fun? No.

“Yes fun! Well, maybe not yesterday...”

Brian Vandborg, CSC:
“It’s a good race, great stages but there are a lot of problems with the long distances after the stages and before the stages. It’s just not good enough; we have to spend two hours in the cars before the race and after the race. It’s just not good enough.”

“The finish yesterday, they should leave that up to mountain bikers to do a finish like that. It doesn’t belong in a road race. I was almost passing out when I reached the finish.”

What gears were you riding at Brasstown?

“The other guys were riding 25/27’s but I only had 23’s. That was hard, I lost one or two minutes.”

And the final pre-race comment comes from none other than Jens Voigt, whom I spotted having coffee with his teammates before the start...


The CSC boys. Click for larger image.

Jens Voigt, CSC:
Thank you for the flowers yesterday!

“Flowers?” he says, looking somewhat horrified, “But I didn’t give you my flowers.”

Were you the CSC rider drinking a Becks beer after the finish on Brasstown Bald?

“Yes.”

Were you the only CSC rider on the podium?

“Yes.”

Well then, you are the CSC rider who gave me his flowers!

“Then I must be a very nice guy, eh?”

Either that or Becks packs quite a wallop when you’re dehydrated!

CSC staff:
"Jens is an athlete, there is no way he would be drinking beer. It was water in the Becks bottle, just to psych out his competitors. Now they will all think beer is his secret weapon, so they will drink it and suffer on the rides while he just drinks water."

 
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