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Teams Announced for 2006 Ford Tour de Georgia
 
By Cathy Mehl
Date: 3/22/2006
Teams Announced for 2006 Ford Tour de Georgia
 

ATLANTA, Ga. (March 21, 2006) – The 2006 edition of the Ford Tour de Georgia, the only 2. Hors Classe race in North America, will feature six ProTour teams this April. Of these ProTour teams, five of them finished 2005 in the ProTour Top 10, including the top two teams in the world, Team CSC (No. 1) and Phonak Hearing Systems (No. 2). A total of 15 teams have accepted invitations to compete in the Ford Tour de Georgia, announced today by Medalist Sports, the sports agency licensed to operate the Ford Tour.

All of the participating ProTour teams, who compete regularly on the UCI's ProTour race calendar, will also compete later this year in the Grand Tours of Europe - Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana:

- Team CSC (Denmark), No. 1 in 2005

- Phonak Hearing Systems (Switzerland), No. 2 in 2005

- Davitamon-Lotto (Belgium), No. 4 in 2005

- Prodir – Saunier Duval (Spain), No. 7 in 2005

- Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team (USA), No 8 in 2005

- Quick Step-Innergetic (Belgium), No. 12 in 2005

Two UCI Professional Continental teams have accepted invitations, including Health Net presented by Maxxis and the Navigators Insurance Professional Cycling team, both based in the U.S. Rounding out the field are seven UCI Continental teams featuring Jelly Belly Cycling Team, Toyota–United Pro Cycling Team, Colavita Olive Oil – Sutter Homes Wines Cycling Team, Team TIAA–Cref, Kodakgallery.com - Sierra Nevada Pro Cycling Team, Targetraining Cycling Team and The Jittery Joes – Zero Gravity Professional Cycling Team, based in Athens, Ga.

Although final team rosters are not due to organizers until early April, early commitments include defending Tour de Georgia champion Tom Danielson of the Discovery Channel Professional Cycling Team and newly-crowned champion of the inaugural Amgen Tour of California and Paris-Nice, Floyd Landis of Phonak Hearing Systems. All teams will be comprised of eight riders per squad, for a total field of 120 professional athletes. Final rosters will be announced in early April and posted at the official website, www.fordtourdegeorgia.com.

"The elevation of the Ford Tour de Georgia to an Hors-classe (2.HC) status by the UCI strengthens our ability to always have the best teams in the world compete on Georgia soil. Spectators and our corporate partners can continue to anticipate a world-class contest here in Georgia, a showcase for international cycling, "said Chris Aronhalt, managing partner of Medalist Sports.

The Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team, the only U.S. based ProTour team, is expected to again field a very competitive team for Georgia in 2006. Danielson enters his third year of professional racing, including an eighth place finish in the 2005 Vuelta a Espana.

"My biggest goals are the Giro d'Italia, and before that to defend my title at the (Ford) Tour of Georgia. I think it's probably the biggest bike race in America. It's got a mountain top finish. It has a lot of history, now going into its fourth year. Some great champions have won it in the past. And I'd like to keep up the tradition," said Danielson. "I'd like to win it (the Tour de Georgia again) and keep pushing American cycling as high as we can push it.

Other members of the Discovery team expected to race in Georgia are Trent Lowe (AUS), winner of the GE Best Young Rider jersey at the 2005 Tour de Georgia while riding for Jittery Joe's, Yaroslav Popovych (UKR ) winner of the Best Young Rider award at the 2005 Tour de France, and Viatcheslav Ekimov (RUS), the 2000 Olympic Games time trial gold medalist and 14-time veteran of the Tour de France.

The Swiss–based Phonak Hearing Systems team features Landis, who has hit form early this year winning both Paris-Nice and the inaugural Amgen Tour of California. He finished third overall in the 2005 Tour de Georgia, including a win in the individual time trial.

"The Tour (de France) is my main objective. I will do the Giro, two weeks after the (Ford) Tour of Georgia. It will be difficult to be in the range to be as good as I was last year, but it's in America, and it means a lot to me," said Landis, who finished ninth in the 2005 Tour de France. "And it was a great race last year (in Georgia), so I intend to well."

Stars of the domestic and European peloton are expected to commit soon with their respective teams. Quickstep-Innergetic, which features the No. 1-ranked cyclist in the world, sprinter Tom Boonen (BEL), and Davitamon-Lotto, with Americans Fred Rodriguez and Chris Horner, are both newcomers to the Ford Tour de Georgia.

Team CSC was the top-ranked UCI ProTour team in 2005 and always brings a strong team to Georgia. This Danish team is expected to bring American David Zabriskie to Georgia, a General Classification contender who wore the yellow jersey in the 2005 Tour de France and won the Stage 8 individual time trial in the Giro d'Italia. Spanish team Prodir-Saunier Duval has American Aaron Olson on its roster, and looks to bring Canadian National Champion and two-time winner of the San Francisco Gran Prix, Charles Dionne, to the Ford Tour de Georgia.

Health Net presented by Maxxis and Navigators Insurance Cycling Team are the top squads in the U.S. with a Professional Continental ranking and will return to showcase their strong talent again this year. Health Net is expected to bring leader Gord Fraser of Canada, who is a multiple stage winner at the Tour de Georgia, and New Zealand's Greg Henderson, who won last year's Maxxis Sprint leader's jersey. New to Health Net for 2006 is Nathan O'Neill, multiple Australian time trial champion and third-place podium finisher at the 2003 Tour de Georgia. Now a resident of Georgia, O'Neill could prove to be a formidable General Classification contender.

Navigators Insurance returns with a different look in 2006, and its roster includes Ben Brooks, former Euro pro and second-place finisher in last year's Stage Two sprint finish, and Cesar Grajales, the world-class climbing talent who unexpectedly beat Lance Armstrong on the ascent up Brasstown Bald in 2004.

Georgia's own Jittery Joe's-Zero Gravity Pro Cycling Team, known for launching the careers of Grajales and Lowe, has many new faces. "For this year's Ford Tour de Georgia, we have a stronger climbing squad. Trent Wilson and Peter Hatton are two Australian additions to watch. Also strong on the climbs is Phil Wong, who consistently rode in the Top 10 as an amateur in pro stage races in North America last year," said Micah Rice, team general manager. Wilson is a climber who has finished the last two Giro d'Italia races, riding last year for Colombia-Selle Italia, and Hatton was a KOM winner at the 2005 Herald Sun Tour.

New to the Ford Tour de Georgia are the Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team and the Targetraining Cycling Team. Toyota-United Pro exploded on the cycling scene during the 2006 Amgen Tour of California when Juan Jose Haedo of Argentina sprinted for two stage wins and a second-place finish within a single short week. Other big names on that new team are Ivan Dominguez, who wore the yellow jersey in the 2004 Tour de Georgia, current USPRO National Road Champion Chris Wherry, and strongman Antonio Cruz. Targetraining is a new Continental put together by Tom Schuler. The team has climbing specialist Anthony Colby and sprinter Alejandro (aka Ale-jet) Acton of Argentina.

Some of the other athletes expected at the Ford Tour de Georgia with U.S. Contential teams are: Danny Pate and Michael Creed on TIAA-CREF; Alex Candelario, Brice Jones and Matthew Rice of Jelly Belly; Viktor "The Russian Concussion" Rapinski and former USPRO Champion Mark McCormack on Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Home Wines; Dominique Perras, Jackson Stewart and Ben Jacques-Mayne riding for KodakGallery.com-Sierra Nevada.

TEAMS AT THE 2006 FORD TOUR DE GEORGIA

ProTour Teams

  • CSC, Denmark – A global technology company, based in the U.S. that provides consulting, systems integration and design, IT and business process outsourcing and applications software. www.team-csc.com
  • Phonak Hearing Systems, Switzerland – A leading company in hearing aid technology. www.phonak.com
  • Davitamon-Lotto, Belgium – Davitamon is a vitamin producing company. Lotto is Belgium's national lottery. www.davitamon-lotto.com
  • Prodir-Saunier Duval, Spain – Saunier Duval is part of Vaillant Group, an international business corporation, the European leader in supplying intelligent systems for home comfort. Prodir is a pen manufacturing company that produces writing instruments as advertising media based out of Switzerland. www.saunierduval-prodir.com
  • Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team, USA – A U.S. based cable network channel focusing on science. www.team.discovery.com
  • Quickstep-Innergetic, Belgium – Quickstep is laminated flooring company now owned and operated by Mohawk Industries, which is located in Dalton, Ga. Innergetic, a Belgium based company, makes latex foam bed mattresses manufactured by Latexco. www.qsi-cycling.com
UCI Professional Continental teams
Continental Teams – UCI America Tour
 
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