The Dodge Tour de Georgia got underway today with a 128 mile stage ride from
Augusta to Macon, Georgia. With a start time of 11:30 A.M., the teams
started gathering in their team areas and making their way to the sign-in about
an hour before the race. Prior to the race beginning, a lot of people were
hanging out on the sidelines watching the riders role up to sign in. This
time gives the fans a good chance to snap a photo of their favorite riders and often
you'll see the entire team sign in together. Many fans stopped by the Health
Net-Maxxis camp for autographs and PR materials.
I chatted with Bob Roll
in the middle of the street and was happy to hear he's following some of the
race this week for OLN. I can tell you this guy looks fit. And he
was happy to sign autographs and pose for pictures until the race began. I
had the chance to over hear Bobby Julich talking to the press stating it was his
hope that one of the ProTour teams would be sure to take the top honors in this
race since there are so many great Americans riding here.
A few minutes later I turned around to have a quick chat with none
other than Phil Liggett. He commented that this was his first time at the
Dodge Tour de Georgia, and he felt the race was fabulous. He said he would
only do some camera work for a few days and then head home to cover the
week-end races in Europe, leaving the rest of the race in the capable hands of
Frankie and Bob. Asked what he thought about Armstrong's retirement
announcement, he smiled that endearing Liggett smile and said, "Well, it's sad,
but inevitable." Phil climbed in a lead caravan car and headed out on the
race course for an up-close look at the day's stage.
The race started a few minutes late as it was held up while Lance Armstrong
tried to make his way through the throngs of fans up to the start. After a prayer
for safety and the National Anthem, the gun sounded and it was time to ride.
A few efforts flew off the front in the initial kilometers, but were reeled back
in until TIAA-CREF young rider Dan Bowman went out and was left to hang there
for much of the race. DS Jonathan Vaughters commented: "Once the gap
got up to two minutes I said, 'OK Dan, you're in for a long day!' I
said, 'Don't let the gap go above ten minutes if you can, because that makes the
field nervous and they start to chase.'" Asked at the press conference
what he thought about while he was riding solo for so many hours today, Bowman
said he told himself he knew it was going to be a long day!
Once the race hit the circuits of Macon, the sprinter's teams lined up for
the drive to the line. Health Net-Maxxis rider Greg Henderson said:
“The final kilometer was really fast." With 700
meters remaining, the bunch took a right and went over a short climb. “Mike
(Sayers) took me up from a long way back. I hooked up with (Chris) Wherry after
that and he pulled me up to fifth wheel coming out of the last corner with 400
meters to go. It was so fast, that’s where we all stayed. It was single-file to
the finish.” The win went to South African Robbie Hunter of Phonak, who
stated at the press conference that his team will defend the jersey, but be
willing to lose it for a few days and then gain it back in the mountains.
It was a long opening stage for the cyclists at the Dodge Tour de Georgia but
blue skies and low humidity made for good racing and great viewing. Large
crowds showed up at the start and finish lines, with many small communities in
between turning out to cheer on the peloton as it rolled by in southern Georgia
After an hour and a half transfer tomorrow morning, Stage Two goes from
Fayetteville to Rome. It's a 122 mile stage with two sprints and one King
of the Mountain. It should be another day for the sprinter's teams and
we'll be looking for Health Net-Maxxis to light it up on Stage Two.