Results tagged “Tour de Georgia” from spare cycles

Tour de Georgia to skip a year

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Not much of a surprise:

(Atlanta, GA) Following the conclusion of a very successful 2008 Tour de Georgia presented by AT&T, the Board of Directors of the Tour de Georgia Foundation, Inc., announced today their plans for the future of the Tour.

Speaking on behalf of the Foundation's Board of Directors, long time member Tom Saddlemire announced that the Tour de Georgia will not be held in 2009 but will return in 2010. Mr. Saddlemire, newly retired CFO of GE Energy, explained that "with the help of the Lt. Governor, the Tour had its most successful year yet, raising close to $3.2 million in operating expenses and commitments for more than $500,000 in support of cancer research through the Aflac Cancer Center at Children's Healthcare and the Georgia Cancer Coalition. We believe that this unique and exciting event will endure. We have decided to use 2009 as a time to plan ahead and properly position the Tour de Georgia to make the best use of the new partnerships we forged during the 2008 Tour de Georgia Presented by AT&T, such as our relationships with Blue Cross Blue Shield and Road Atlanta. The planning process for the Tour de Georgia requires a tremendous amount of time and effort and we wanted to give all of our partners enough time to plan and allocate their resources to take full advantage of the event. Therefore, we will skip 2009 and the Board will petition USAC and the UCI for the Tour de Georgia's return to the world calendar in 2010."

Craig Lesser, former Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development said that "The Tour de Georgia was initiated by the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade & Tourism (now Georgia Department of Economic Development) in 2003 with a focus on creating a world-class cycling event which fostered significant economic development, tourism and world-wide exposure. We achieved that goal. The Tour de Georgia quickly developed stature, gaining international ranking (by UCI and USA Cycling, Inc.) as a spring tradition in the professional sport of cycling. The Tour de Georgia attracted the best teams in the world and previous champions included such stars as Lance Armstrong, Tom Danielson and Chris Horner. Over the course of six years, the Tour de Georgia has attracted 3.2 million spectators, many of whom traveled to Georgia from out of state, and generated a direct economic impact totaling over $186 million. The 2008 Tour de Georgia, our most successful Tour yet, yielded over $38.6 million in direct economic impact for the State. We have come a long way since 2003."

Chairman of the Board, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle added, "The support we received from our Georgia sponsor corporations, our host cities and the citizens of Georgia was amazing in 2008. Since April, we have had an enormous response from our partners on ways we can strengthen the Tour for the future, and we have been listening. Our host cities want to have time to prepare tourism packages and our health providers are enthusiastic about developing plans to use the Health and Wellness expos to spread their message across the state. Our cycling friends from across the state want to partner with us to create participant activities which are inclusive of the whole family. We have listened to their advice and have decided to skip one year so that the Tour de Georgia can once and for all be ahead of the game in the planning process. This is a decision I feel is wise and one that will strengthen the Tour de Georgia for years to come. I commend our Board for its thoughtfulness in arriving at this decision. We look forward to using 2009 to plan the 2010 Tour and I am committed to playing an active role in that process."

Steve Johnson, CEO of USA Cycling, said that he "was obviously disappointed to learn that the 2009 Tour de Georgia has been cancelled for 2009. However, I am very pleased that the race will return in 2010. Since its inception in 2003, the Tour de Georgia has been an important international stage race featuring some of the top riders in the world. Equally important, it provided the impetus for major stage races in California and Missouri. We look forward to the Tour de Georgia returning in 2010."

The Tour de Georgia Presented by AT&T is North America 's premier professional cycling race. First held in 2003, the Tour de Georgia Presented by AT&T is an international professional sporting event that brings thousands of spectators and cycling enthusiasts to the State of Georgia each Spring . The 2008 Tour de Georgia Presented by AT&T was a six stage race, covering more than 600 miles across the State of Georgia , from the shores of Tybee Island to the mountains of North Georgia, with an exciting circuit finish in the state capitol, Atlanta. Traditionally, professional teams use the Tour de Georgia to prepare their riders for the most challenging tours held in Europe , including the Tour de France. Several teams which rode in the 2008 Tour de Georgia Presented by AT&T also participated in the 2008 Tour de France. Riders such as Christian van de Velde and George Hincapie, who were fierce competitors in the 2008 Tour de Georgia Presented by AT&T, also rode extremely well in the 2008 Tour de France. The climb up Brasstown Bald in the mountains of North Georgia, a favorite of cycling fans and a legendary stage in the professional racing circuit, is considered by professional cyclists to be the most challenging and grueling stage of any race held in North America.

Tour de Georgia Farewell?

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Siutsou Conquers Brasstown Bald - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

The unofficial rumor at this year's Tour de Georgia was that it was to be the last. In fact, it was that unofficial rumor that was part of my impetus for choosing to shot it instead of the Tour of Missouri. Although this year's event was great and contained fun new additions like a team time trial on race track -- please add this to the Tour of California! -- it was clear that the money was not there like it was for the Tour of California and Missouri.

CyclingNews has promoted this rumor to more official status. Funding is not there for the race and attendance has not been able to survive the post-Armstrong effect. It could either be postponed or scraped altogether. To throw in some more unofficial rumors, a lot of people have been saying that the scrapping of the Tour de Georgia will give the Tour of California more room to spread its wings -- a later date on the calendar could open access to California's more majestic mountain scenery, which is usually too snow-covered in February.

Stage 7 Journal

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Today's journal will be short and sweet as I've got to get ready to get home and can't wait until the galleries are up to write a post. You can look for more photos to appear in my stage 7 gallery later in the day.

The Tour de Georgia was a blast -- especially the team time trial and Brasstown Bald. I never would have thought after the Tour of California to see an American Tour so heavily dominated by High Road. Pretty much all that was missing for them was a stage win by George Hincapie, which nearly happened in Dahlonega. Hincapie was an absolute workhorse today; he seemed to be at the front of the peloton every time they passed me by.

Today's stage was a hard circuit. I rode moto for the first two laps and got to see the break develop, first with Rhys Pollock almost immediately jumping off the front, to the riders that bridged up. That was pretty much the entire race, up until the peloton finally decided to reel the break in. In between, I got to see a lot of riders off the back, and a lot of teams sending riders back to help bridge back, including Rock Racing and BMC. The peloton looked a lot smaller by day's end. The road was rough enough to throw my feet off the foot pegs on the motorcycle, so I can only imagine what it feels like on a bike.

It's pretty difficult to shoot from a moto on an urban circuit as you're constantly turning and accelerating and bumping around -- another photographer used a 300mm lens to get enough distance as the tighter roads force you to stay further away. I made the mistake of stopping to shoot the peloton roll by; we never got back in front. I ended up shooting most of the stage on foot.

Greg Henderson Gets His Second Win - (c) Ken Conley Greg Henderson Gets His Second Win - (c) Ken Conley

Greg Henderson took the stage and managed to produce an interesting victory salute, especially when paired with JJ Haedo's tongue wag. The podium ceremony was a High Road affair, even if Astana got to have their own champagne party on stage. Levi Leipheimer really is eager to grab the champagne bottles and soak everyone in sight, even if he always seems to end up bleary eyed. Thankfully they didn't give out as many champagne bottles as they did at the Tour of California -- except for a little morning rain, my gear stayed dry.

Levi Leipheimer - (c) Ken Conley Chechu Rubiera - (c) Ken Conley

Greg Henderson Gets His Second Win - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

Atlanta - (c) Ken Conley

High Road - (c) Ken Conley Breakaway - (c) Ken Conley Tom Danielson - (c) Ken Conley jerseys - (c) Ken Conley Chechu Rubiera - (c) Ken Conley

Tour de Georgia Stage 7 Photo Gallery (in progress)

The final stage in Atlanta was a rugged urban stage with plenty of potholes to send riders off the back in search of new wheels. The field let a break of 12 get away, including Tom Danielson and Rhys Pollock, but High Road, with Big George Hincapie at the front, kept the lead manageable throughout the ten laps. Rock Racing, despite having already lost a couple of riders on the course, worked to bring back the break going into the final laps, but the day was meant to be all High Road: Greg Henderson beat out JJ Haedo on the uphill sprint as High Road successfully defended its overall and sprint jersey. Jason McCartney's KOM jersey was already sewn up for CSC yesterday, and the sprint finish meant that Trent Lowe's lead in the young rider competition was never threatened. Astana had to settle for the Best Team award, which is a great accomplishment, but probably much less than they had hoped for. The Overall Most Aggressive Rider went to Rory Sutherland, the big Health Net rider who showed off climbing legs as well as a daring attack on Stage 3.

Tour de Georgia Stage 7 Photo Gallery (in progress)

Stage 6 Journal

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Brasstown Bald is the most fun stage of the Tour de Georgia... for the fans. The intimidating climbs lead to joking amongst the sprinters, like Ivan Dominguez's "Push Me Up the Hill Please" sign that he taped on his bike, then JJ Haedo's chest. His teammate Ivan Stevic noted that he taped it on the wrong side: Haedo was going to get pushed downhill. Dominguez loved the attention: "Everyone loves my sign.... They think I'm joking... I won't be on the podium today but I will be in everyone's photos." He was even handed a "tow" rope, which was strung between him and Stevic (it was noted that attaching two sprinters together is the wrong idea). Stevic pulled his own prank by attacking Dominguez with 100m to go -- for 99th place.

Push Me Up the Hill Please - (c) Ken Conley Push Me Up the Hill Please - (c) Ken Conley Push Me Up the Hill Please - (c) Ken Conley Push Me Up the Hill Please - (c) Ken Conley JJ Haedo - (c) Ken Conley

Also entertaining was my favorite ham, Justin England. England paper-boy-ed across the upper slopes of Brasstown Bald but still found the energy to raise his hand to get the fans to cheer. He gave me a good tongue stick out before heading to the finish.

Justin England - (c) Ken Conley Justin England - (c) Ken Conley

Brasstown Bald - (c) Ken ConleyGetting to the top of Brasstown Bald is difficult, even for the media. Very few cars are allowed up the climb, but thankfully the race organizers do their best to make sure everyone can find a ride. Even with a ride, there's still the steep 1K section to the top that you have to walk by foot. Fans are kind enough to cheer you on -- or make fun of you. Either way, you're spurred on. One fan was having passersby chalk their state onto the road so that the geographic origin of the fans would be properly cheered. I scribbled an ecstatic "SF!" after noting that their California chalking only gave shoutouts to LA, San Diego, and the mysterious RPD.

Brasstown Bald - (c) Ken Conley There's nothing like the Brasstown climb in the Tour of California (and certainly not the Tour of Missouri). Obviously it's harder; It's also more fan friendly. The parking lot at 1K to go serves as a festival central with a large-screen TV setup and makeshift seating in the traffic circle. A shuttle ferries fans to the top, so there's kids instead of the wall of team-kit bikers that you see at the top of ToC climbs. I ran into Rebecca and Amy of chechurubiera.info -- they were responsible for the Asturias flag flying proudly in front of the TV screen. I also ran into James of Bicycle Design again, this time with kids in tow (one of the nice things about having a shuttle).

My spot for shooting the race was easy to choose once fellow photographer Paul handed me a 300mm f/2.8. If you're wondering why my photos look different than usual, it's because I got to use this mighty lens. The way it can make spit pop is just incredible and it was letting me sight action that was occurring over 100m down the climb. I've never had a reel of photos that I had to do so little processing to. If someone feels like sending me $4k, I'll be sure to add one to my arsenal.

Siutsou Conquers Brasstown Bald - (c) Ken Conley Siutsou Conquers Brasstown Bald - (c) Ken Conley Siutsou Conquers Brasstown Bald - (c) Ken Conley Trent Lowe Shadows Levi Leipheimer - (c) Ken Conley George Hincapie - (c) Ken Conley Rock Racing - (c) Ken Conley Rory Sutherland - (c) Ken Conley Chechu Rubiera - (c) Ken Conley Chris Horner - (c) Ken Conley Jason McCartney - (c) Ken Conley

The news of Siutsou/Sivtsov's overall coup came as a big surprise. I had stayed down the climb to shoot the sprinters coming up (because I'm cruel) and then went up to the finish line, so I didn't even know if Lowe or Leipheimer had taken second. When I heard multiple discussions of, "how do you even pronounce his name?" in relation to the yellow jersey, I knew that it was not young Trent Lowe being discussed.

Brasstown Bald Gallery

Stache Sploot

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Dave Zabriskie - (c) Ken Conley Dave Zabriskie - (c) Ken Conley
Photos by Ken Conley

Don't you just love how the 300mm focal length makes the spit pop?

Siutsou Conquers Brasstown Bald - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

Siutsou Conquers Brasstown Bald - (c) Ken Conley

Siutsou Conquers Brasstown Bald - (c) Ken Conley Siutsou Conquers Brasstown Bald - (c) Ken Conley Kanstantin Siutsou - (c) Ken Conley Kanstantin Siutsou - (c) Ken Conley

Tour de Georgia 2007 Stage 6 Photo Gallery

Kanstantin Siutsou shocked all the Tour de Georgia pundits by winning Brasstown Bald and moving into the Tour de Georgia lead. While everyone's GC eyes were focused on the battle between Trent Lowe and Levi Leipheimer just behind, Siutsou managed to put 10 seconds on the two. With the GC separated by very few seconds due to the close TTT finishing times, this was just enough to put High Road into the yellow jersey. Siutsou came so far out of nowhere that reporters had to ask Bob Stapleton afterwards how to pronounce his name.

High Road's Tour de Georgia has now gone from good to excellent, with both the overall and sprint lead, as well as two stage victories. They will be focused on a defending both tomorrow along Atlanta's circuit.

Stage 6 was full of surprises. No one predicted that Trent Lowe would be duking it out it Levi for the overall, nor did they predict that Lowe would actually beat Levi. Who would have though that Astana would be shutout at an American Tour without even a stage win, after having won all Tour of California/Georgia/Missouris since Landis took the 2006 Tour de Georgia. There's still hope for tomorrow, but they'll have to play a perfect hand to take 14 seconds.

Trent Lowe Shadows Levi Leipheimer - (c) Ken Conley Trent Lowe Shadows Levi Leipheimer - (c) Ken Conley

Big things were expected of Tom Danielson, but he finished nearly 12 minutes back, smiling as he climbed. Photos show him and Zabriskie doing work at the front of the peloton to reel in the break, so I guess Slipstream put all their hopes on Lowe -- and he would have delivered, if anyone had known anything about Siutsou.

Tom Danielson - (c) Ken Conley

Then there's Team Type 1, which finished two riders in the top ten up Brasstown -- as many as any other team. Jittery Joe's found success with Neil Shirley, who hung with a break of Svein Tuft, Jason McCartney, and Andrey Mizurov to take the Most Aggressive Award.

Team Type 1 - (c) Ken Conley Jason McCartney - (c) Ken Conley Neil Shirley - (c) Ken Conley

Tour de Georgia 2007 Stage 6 Photo Gallery

Stage 5 Journal

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A long day for the riders, a short day for me. One stop alongside a lake, shots at the finish, and the day is over. Skilled drivers, aka the Versus camera crew, can make 4-5 stops on a day like today, finding every side road and driving with just the right amount of aggression to stay ahead. I was more interested in finding a scenic shot that I'd be really, really happy with, so Mario and I skipped the start once more to begin our voyage along the course that moved slowly up in elevation towards the warmup climbs for tomorrow's course. There was an unfortunate accident during the opening circuits with one of the photo motos: a fan ran out onto the course as the caravan was moving through and collided with a photo moto -- four were injured. Another accident, thankfully without injuries, occurred when the Health Net car ran into the back of the BMC car. The BMC crew ripped off their busted bumper while the Health Net team managed to tape their air bags down.

While all this chaos was happening, we were busy driving along the course to look for the spot that screamed "shoot me." Barns, fences, trees, cows and a small goat offered themselves to our lenses, but we declined. Just before the start of the KOM climb we found what we were looking for: a lake, with a mountain overlooking it. Given that this was the first real mountain stage in the Tour de Georgia, it was the combination of scenery and story that we were looking for. A four-man break came through almost ten minutes ahead of the peloton, giving me the opportunity to warm up my telephoto lens while I waited for the bigger pack. It was quite a successful break, seeing as Edward King (Bissell) took the KOM jersey and Tim Johnson (Health Net) got himself Most Aggressive.

Breakaway - (c) Ken Conley Lake - (c) Ken Conley Lake - (c) Ken Conley

We went straight to the Dahlonega finish from there. Dahlonega had really good crowds, perhaps the best so far. I liked the town a lot, even though I experienced very little of it. It had the same sort of town-square-centric blueprint that every other small town in Georgia seems to have, but it felt more charming. I've been joking with people here that town-square courthouses are to Georgia what cathedrals are to Europe. You love the first few, but soon you're saying, "not another courthouse!" Dahlonega managed to overcome my rising aversion.

We tried to cover as much of the final two miles as possible. The finale featured several technical elements that could prove decisive: the short, steep KOM climb, two 90 turns on the descent, a hairpin turn 100m before the finish, and a descent then climb up to the finish line. I dropped Mario off at the Crown Mountain KOM, where we hoped that a move would be made. He was treated to a perfect catch: the chase group containing Hincapie, Leipheimer, Sevilla, Sutherland, Horner, and others swallowed the break just as the climb ticked up to its greatest slope on Crown Mountain Road. Levi looked back at Sevilla to make sure the GC threat was contained. Later, stragglers came through and were treated to pushes to the top. It's a good rehearsal for tomorrow's Brasstown Bald.

Over at the finish line I camped out on the final hairpin turn, standing on the awards podium next to the Versus camera. Levi's dad was up there taking photos as well. I decided to forgo the traditional arms-raised finish line shot to try something different and get more variety: Richard England looking back at Sutherland, launching his attack, careening around the hairpin turn, and charging to the top. I just managed to catch a double Bissell victory salute and the pop of a flash before my camera buffer ran full. I had done a test run with the sequence of shots I was going to take to see if my camera buffer would run full if I was shooting in RAW. Clearly I didn't plan right, but luck overcame skill.

Richard England Makes His Move - (c) Ken Conley Richard England Makes His Move - (c) Ken Conley Richard England Makes His Move - (c) Ken Conley Richard England - (c) Ken Conley Richard England Takes the Uphill Sprint - (c) Ken Conley

We had to wait quite awhile for the podium presentation as there were two delays: there were a lot of riders off the back that had to roll in, including yellow/blue jersey Greg Henderson. They also had to get out the rulebook to figure out which Slipstream rider would inherit the yellow jersey. The podium ceremony began, as always, with introductions of local public officials and raffles for various prizes. I'll let you in on a little secret, Dahlonega: the basic script, including all the little jokes and praise for the stage and the finish town, is the same every time ;). The PA announcer seemed really happy about the Bissell win as he really stressed the enunciation of the team sponsor, which also happens to be a Tour de Georgia sponsor. A stage win and KOM jersey is an impressive haul, especially for the official sponsor of the broom wagon.

Richard England - (c) Ken Conley Edward King - (c) Ken Conley

Health Net is to the Tour de Georgia what BMC was to the Tour of California. They've really tried to animate this race with daring attacks and breaks and they also animate the podium, as you can see below:

Rory Sutherland - (c) Ken Conley Tim Johnson - (c) Ken Conley

I'm now in Helen, Georgia, which seems the Georgia equivalent of Solvang, except it is a Bavarian-themed village instead of a Danish-themed village. It looks pretty similar to me -- I'm sure that offends Danes and Bavarians alike. It's a short drive from here to Blairsville and Brasstown Bald, where the long-awaited GC showdown will occur.

Stage 4 Journal

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Today was probably the best day of my cycling photography career. First off, I got to ride the moto. Second, I got to ride the moto. Third, it was a fantastically designed stage. Not only was it a team time trial, but it was held on a racetrack so that spectators and photographers got many opportunities to see the riders. And fourth, I got to meet some people I only knew online (James of Bicycle Design and Frank of TdfBlog).

I started off the day shooting the Slipstream bikes once more, though I had a good reasons this time. I knew they were going to win and there was a good story element: the mechanic was attaching "Just Go Harder" labels to the back of the seatposts as a tribute to Timmy Duggan, who's recovering in the hospital. I felt silly taking that many takes of the label, but there wasn't much else going on, and I really felt that I would need a great take of it. James of Bicycle Design was there as well, busy shooting the Zipp 1080s.

Just Go Harder - (c) Ken Conley Just Go Harder - (c) Ken Conley Just Go Harder - (c) Ken Conley Just Go Harder - (c) Ken Conley Just Go Harder - (c) Ken Conley

I also stopped by the Rock Racing merchandise tent so that I could grab a shot of the aforementioned Beast that I helped load last night. I did my best imitation of the Rock-Racing-style-like processing that I learned about last night, but am having trouble translating from Lightroom to Adobe Bridge.

The Beast - (c) Ken Conley Cannondale - (c) Ken Conley Giant - (c) Ken Conley

I wanted to get out on course and was in for a happy surprise: while the riders were warming up, I could take a moto and photograph them. This was far better than using the motos during the TTT, because there were no restrictions about shooting from in front (these restrictions are one of the reasons it's easy to get a moto for the TTT). And so it is, the time of my life began.

My first venture onto the moto was a bit of a crapshoot. It turns out that it's much more difficult to shoot from moto than the side of the road. Such things seem obvious in hindsight, but what I didn't account for is how all the elements of difficulty tie together: the helmet, which makes it impossible to hold your eye to the viewfinder; the shaking of the motorcycle, which makes it hard to stay on target; the pain of twisting your body to the side to shoot; the jeepers aspect of staying on the back of a motorcycle at 50mph while both of your hands are holding your camera; trying not to hit the moto driver in the head with your lens as you switch from side to side; etc... I've always had respect for photographers Casey Gibson and Jonathan Devitch, but held a bit of jealousy at their moto access. Now my esteem for them is further elevated as I realize just how tough it must be to sit on a moto for 4+ hours a day (not that I ever thought it was easy) as well as how difficult it is to take good shots. If you wish to understand what it's like, grab a laser pointer, squint your eyes almost shut, twist your body around, and try to hit a fly. Perhaps that's more difficult, but the principle is the same.

The most important piece of advice given to me about riding moto: bring a change of underwear, especially after a mountain stage.

On my maiden voyage I shot High Road doing their warmups until my driver had to come in. Like a kid who's just ridden his first rollercoaster, I immediately found another driver and went back out on course. This time was a little easier, mainly because my brain finally had some time to re-engage in the downtime. My first target was Slipstream, as I was determined to shoot as much rider butt as necessary to get a good shot of the "Just Go Harder" sign on the seatpost. I also got some shots of Zabriskie getting a lift from the Bissell car up the short climb as well as some pacelines from the front.

Stage 4 Warmups Gallery

George Hincapie - (c) Ken Conley High Road - (c) Ken Conley Just Go Harder - (c) Ken Conley Just Go Harder - (c) Ken Conley Christian Vandevelde - (c) Ken Conley Dave Zabriskie Gets a Lift Up the Climb - (c) Ken Conley

I also took some spins in front of CSC and Astana. Astana came out the best as my lens was practically being shoved up Levi's nose as we descended through the "Esses" on the Road Atlanta course. The photos make me wish I could slyly pretend that they were taken during the race.

CSC - (c) Ken Conley Levi Leipheimer Leads the Astana Paceline - (c) Ken Conley Chechu Rubiera - (c) Ken Conley Astana - (c) Ken Conley

The moto drivers really helped make the experience solid. They are accustomed to first-time passengers, so they slowly bridged me up to the art of moto-based cycling photography. They gave me suggestions for shots that I could go for and they also patiently responded to requests of, "forward, forward, hold, back, forward, back, back, forward...."

For the actual race, I refrained from moto as much as possible as they were mainly just for getting to different stationary spots on course. It's much better to shoot the riders from in front than behind, and the motos aren't allowed in front of the riders during the TTT. This didn't stop me from following both CSC and Astana. I got lucky with CSC and caught JJ Haedo accidentally clipping out of his pedal on the first climb. Not the biggest story, but a fun shot to have. I didn't get much interesting stuff with Astana other than a couple riders popping off the back. I wish I could pretend that I was being a pro photographer and trying to get "the shot" while following Astana for as long as I did, but really I was a tourist. I was following shooting Astana from a motorcyle on a Le Mans racetrack during an actual TTT. I was having so much fun that I didn't want to get off to take better shots. Besides, I knew Slipstream was going to win ;).

Dropped - (c) Ken Conley Haedo Unclipped - (c) Ken Conley

There's not much too add about the race itself. The strategy for this TTT seemed fairly simple: go fast, don't wait up. Rider after rider was flung off the back to suffer alone to the finish -- Botero and Zirbel were probably the biggest surprises for me. The climbs and descents were technical enough to throw the pacelines into disarray and every second that could be bought with good drilling was key.

Slipstream TTT - (c) Ken Conley Slipstream TTT - (c) Ken Conley High Road - (c) Ken Conley Rock Racing - (c) Ken Conley

Astana - (c) Ken Conley CSC - (c) Ken Conley High Road - (c) Ken Conley Rock Racing - (c) Ken Conley

Slipstream took a big victory on what is the first real GC stage of the Tour de Georgia, but in the end the gains were little: 4 seconds on Astana. Brasstown Bald doesn't always provide the margin of victory, but this year it certainly will.

Now, if only every US Tour could have a TTT: for the Tour of California, I suggest Laguna Seca.

More Stage 4 Photos

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Slipstream

Farrar Dropped - (c) Ken Conley Podium - (c) Ken Conley

They set the fastest mark on the day even starting without Timmy Duggan. They also had to shed Best Young Rider Tyler Farrar, though teammate Trent Lowe was there to pick it up. Farrar was unlikely to hold it to the end, so not a big sacrifice.

Astana

Astana - (c) Ken Conley Dropped - (c) Ken Conley

Astana lost three riders on its way to second place. The first was Michael Schär, who did not finish and was likely still feeling the ill effects of a crash. Another rider they lost was Kireyev (right).

CSC

Haedo Unclipped - (c) Ken Conley

Haedo unclipped from his pedal and his day in the paceline was done.

High Road

High Road - (c) Ken Conley

High Road set some fast splits, but they had to drop Bert Grabsch (above, doing the work at the front).

Rock Racing

Rock Racing - (c) Ken Conley

They shed a lot of riders, including Botero, which certainly hurt their chances.

Stage 4: Slipstream!

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Slipstream TTT - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

Slipstream TTT - (c) Ken Conley Top Secret Helmet Covers - (c) Ken Conley

Tour de Georgia Stage 4 Photo Gallery

Today was the start of the Tour de Georgia overall: more fans, more reporters, and the appearance of the head honchos: Jonathan Vaughters, Bob Stapleton, Michael Ball, and Johan Bruyneel all showed up to watch their teams do battle.

Teams did four circuits of the Road Atlanta speedway that proved to be fast and viscious. Nearly all the teams shed riders in their attempt to stick to the sub-five-minute-lap pace required to win. Slipstream set the mark to beat. Astana followed with an ever-increasing pace that landed them only 4 seconds short of victory. High Road was last on the road and came out blazing, beating the splits that Slipstream had set. But they lost time in the second half and ended up 6 seconds down.

Just Go Harder - (c) Ken Conley

The Slipstream riders were spurred on by "Just Go Harder" labels on the back of their seatpost, a reference to Tim Duggan's Web site. The labels were added by team mechanic Tom Hopper as a sign of respect for Duggan, who crashed hard in yesterday's stage. The team opted to not go with the "Top Secret, Allen Lim Edition" aerodynamic helmet covers, though they did make a brief appearance on Zabriskie's head before Jonathan Vaughters jokingly told him to hide it.

Mechanicals and snafus were impossible for riders to overcome and Tom Zirbel, JJ Haedo, and Fuyu Li were among the riders that saw their teammates quickly speeding away. I was riding moto behind JJ Haedo as his foot came out of the pedal on the first climb. His team was far away by the time he clipped back in.

Tour de Georgia Stage 4 Photo Gallery

Stage 3 journal

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I had shot a lot of pre-race photos by today, so I wasn't too interested in taking lots of shots in the morning. I clicked off some for the Justin England fan club and also tried umpteen takes of the Slipstream bikes reflected on their bus, to no avail. Mario suggested heading up course to try and find a scenic spot, so I we high-tailed it out of town early.

Justin England - (c) Ken Conley Toyota United - (c) Ken Conley Rory Sutherland - (c) Ken Conley Slipstream - (c) Ken Conley

Driving ahead of the caravan is a bit of a thrill. You have course marshals flagging you through the course, you're speeding, and there's Georgia State Police everywhere. You're constantly having to decide "friend or foe" for each cop car you pass. I had read about Slipstream's run-in with the po-po, so I was more than a bit paranoid.

The plan was to drive to the intermediate sprint in Comer and stop instead if we found something scenic before that. The country was pretty, but nothing seemed worth being our one stop for the day, so we kept on driving. Comer didn't seem like much, so we kept on driving. Eventually we stopped in Danielsville. Some nice guys invited us to shoot out of the upstairs window of their hardware store. Mario and I split up, with me taking his idea of shooting through a window while he shot riders coming through a traffic circle. I chatted with the locals, who provided me with a map of the area, pointed out shortcuts, and also shared important Georgia cultural information like, everyone drives 20 mph over the speed limit. This is significant, given their 70mph highway speed limits.

Breakaway - (c) Ken Conley Danielsville - (c) Ken Conley

We quickly jumped back on the back of the caravan and then split off to hightail it to Gainesville. The finish line was a bit of a shock. Looking at it, experience told me that it was an uphill sprint. But no, for the first time, I was seeing a downhill sprint finish. I believe the PA announcer used the folksy expression, "the sprint will be like rolling a bowling ball down an alligator pit." Many thought something bad was going to happen.

We got to see two laps, which is always a treat and gives plenty of time to figure out which camera settings you want to use. Rory Sutherland really kicked things up -- we heard about Sevilla, but we didn't get to see any of it.

Sutherland Soloes into Red - (c) Ken Conley Sutherland Soloes into Red - (c) Ken Conley High Road - (c) Ken Conley peloton - (c) Ken Conley

The actual finish was odd, due to its downhill nature. It seemed remarkably devoid of any of the chaos of a normal finish. I have not seen video of the sprint, but, as I recall it, High Road's Greipel led things out at the top of the hill, calmly pulled off, and there was Henderson. Quite strange for such a lengthy sprint, but not surprising giving the downhill speeds. More impressive than seeing Henderson take the stage was seeing Andre Greipel able to shut things down and still coast into second.

Henderson Wins the Sprint - (c) Ken Conley Henderson Wins the Sprint - (c) Ken Conley Greg Henderson - (c) Ken Conley Greg Henderson - (c) Ken Conley

Once again I handed my second camera off to Katrina Florence, who was right next to the finish line. I didn't have the camera settings dialed in right for her, but I got what I wanted: a shot that showed the separation on the sprint.

Greg Henderson - (c) Ken Conley

I spent the rest of the evening hanging out with the Rock Racing and Action Images folks. The Rock Racing 'Beast' truck had just arrived from a cross-country drive from Sea Otter. The Beast is a cross between a semi and a motor home, with less manueverability than either. We loaded it up with new Rock merch and then relaxed with beer and Photoshop/Lightroom tips because, when photographers get drunk, they talk about history brushes and layer masks.

About that jersey presentation...

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The sprinters jersey at the Tour de Georgia is blue.

The best young riders jersey at the Tour de Georgia is green.

I had this backwards, but so have the organizers (you could argue the jersey designer had it backwards). It wasn't until today that the jerseys were correctly awarded.

Stage 1

  • Actual: Ivan Dominguez Overall/Sprint, Sanderson Young Rider
  • Awarded: Ivan Dominguez Overall, Sanderson Young/Sprint -- the sprint jersey was given to Sanderson based on the fact that he would be wearing it for Dominguez the next day

Jersey Leaders - (c) Ken Conley

Stage 2

  • Actual: Ivan Dominguez Overall/Sprint, Sanderson Young Rider
  • Awarded: Ivan Dominguez Overall/Young Rider, Sanderson No-Jersey (first take); Ivan Dominguez Overall/Sprint, Sanderson Young Rider (second take)

Ivan Dominguez Jokes About the Best Young Rider Jersey - (c) Ken Conley Jerseys - (c) Ken Conley

I assumed they were taking the iron-on off Sanderson's green jersey, when in fact they were trying to get it to stick on.

Stage 3:

  • Actual: Henderson Overall/Sprint, Farrar Young Rider
  • Awarded: Same
jerseys - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley
Henderson Wins the Sprint - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

Tour de Georgia Stage 3 Photo Gallery

High Road took control of the peloton as it arrived in Gainesville and kept that control until the end. Andre Greipel lead Greg Henderson out at the start of the downhill and no one could challenge as the peloton reached blistering 50+mph speeds. Greipel was able to coast into second as Henderson managed a very quick arms raised salute before having to regain control of his bike. George Hincapie raised his arms in salute as well, having protected Henderson though the finishing circuit.

With the exception of the KOM jersey, which is firmly in the hands of Frank Pipp until the peloton sees another climb, there was a major reshuffling of the jerseys. Greg Henderson jumped into the top spot after Ivan Dominguez had major trouble staying attached to the peloton. I'm not sure what happened, but there were a lot of Toyota United riders off the back. Greg Henderson also got take the sprinter jersey that had been on loan from Ivan Dominguez. Tyler Farrar's third-place sprint broke the tie in the best young rider competition. He also moved into second place in the sprint classification.

Greg Henderson - (c) Ken Conley Greg Henderson - (c) Ken Conley Greg Henderson - (c) Ken Conley

Sutherland Soloes into Red - (c) Ken ConleyIt was breakaway central on the undulating circuit as Rory Sutherland was first to get separation on the peloton. His daring effort earned him the Most Aggressive Jersey award. Oscar Sevilla also repeated his breakaway attempt from yesterday and managed to jump past Sutherland, but was unable to hold off the lineup for the sprint.

An earlier, four-man breakaway of Scott Zwizanski, Frank Pipp, Rhys Pollock and Moises Aldape was able to get separation on the field after a crash in the peloton took out Slipstream's Tim Duggan. Frank Pipp used the break to gather up two of the three intermediate sprints while Pollock flew his Most Aggressive jersey.

Danielsville - (c) Ken Conley Breakaway - (c) Ken Conley

Tour de Georgia Stage 3 Photo Gallery

Stage 2 Journal

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Today started off a bit early as I was desperate to get out of my less-than-stellar, Hotwire-booked hotel room. This gave me plenty of time to admire the downtown architecture of Statesboro, which is so quaint that it lies at the intersection of not one, but two Main Streets. I caught the rider rollout through this intersection as well as a friendy Nydam/Leipheimer greeting and some Zabriskie mustache twirling. The highlight of the morning was Freedom, the young bald eagle. Freedom is so cool that he has his own Bald Eagle mascot.

Statesboro Start - (c) Ken Conley Honor Guard - (c) Ken Conley Dave Zabriskie - (c) Ken Conley Leipheimer and Nydam - (c) Ken Conley Bald Eagle - (c) Ken Conley Bald Eagle - (c) Ken Conley

The rest of the day Rocked, as in, I teamed up with the staff of Rock Racing. Mario, a Rock fashion photographer converted over to cycling hitched a ride with me along the stage. I'm glad I don't do fashion, as he told me how other photographers will screw with your gear if you let it out of your sight. We were reminded later that US cycling photography is much more friendly.

Despite overshooting our destination twice, we managed to catch the riders at Millen and the finish. I was caught a bit off guard in Millen as we were told that the Marco Polo rider was 2 minutes ahead. Instead, we were greeted to the sight of the Marco Polo rider being enveloped by a Tyler-Farrar-led sprint. I squeezed off a panning shot of Farrar taking the sprint and a series of slow-shutter shots of the riders zooming past Millen's stately building, hoping to get something usable. Intermediate sprints often don't have as much race story in them, so you're much more free to screw around as a photographer.

Millen Sprint - (c) Ken Conley Millen Sprint - (c) Ken Conley

After an accidental detour into South Carolina, we made it to Augusta. Mario noticed that there was a balcony overlooking the finish and came up with the idea of handing off our second cameras to the PR folks. He gave his to Sean Weide and I gave mine to Katrina Florence, who did a stellar job. Mario and I caught some shots of riders hopping the RR tracks and he was probably happy to get some shots of Sevilla jumping off the front with one lap to go.

I did the normal finish line shot from the photographer scrum. It was fairly easy to pick out JJ Haedo screaming up the middle, though I missed the victory salute because I flubbed my focus onto Farrar. I didn't realize until I checked my camera that the sprint was really, really close -- Henderson's wheel was maybe a quarter wheel behind Haedo's.

Peloton - (c) Ken Conley Peloton - (c) Ken Conley

JJ Haedo Sprints to Victory - (c) Ken Conley JJ Haedo Sprints to Victory - (c) Ken Conley JJ Haedo Sprints to Victory - (c) Ken Conley Dominguez Congratulates Haedo - (c) Ken Conley JJ Haedo - (c) Ken Conley JJ Haedo - (c) Ken Conley

Katrina Florence's photos:

Start of the First Lap in Augusta - (c) Ken Conley Sprint Finish - (c) Ken Conley

The podium presentation was interesting. They had grabbed Tyler Farrar for the Best Young Rider jersey, but after later realized that the tie-breaking rules actually kept the jersey with Sanderson. They brought Dominguez on stage instead to give him the sprint jersey, but the Lt. Governor accidentally grabbed the blue jersey with the Slipstream logo on it. Dominguez jokingly pushed it away, saying that he would get fired if he put that on.

Ivan Dominguez - (c) Ken Conley

Sanderson was fetched from his hotel, but the Best Young Rider had a Slipstream logo on it. In the first of three attempts, they brought Sanderson on stage and gave him flowers, but no jersey. Off stage they then stuck Sanderson in a green jersey and attempted to peel the Jelly Belly logo off of it. With the announcer already bringing the festivities to a close, they snuck Sanderson on stage with the green jersey. They still needed to show off the blue jersey, so finally brought all the jersey holders on stage and somehow managed to get Dominguez a blue jersey with a Toyota-United logo on it. Make sense?

I pretend not to understand these things -- for example, I have no idea why Sanderson was awarded the green jersey at yesterday's podium ceremony, when it was actually Dominguez who won it. I am also puzzled as to why Justin England didn't get the Most Aggressive Award today. Actually, not puzzled -- it's probably because Dominguez had yellow and green -- but I like Justin England and wish I got to shoot him on the podium, instead of in front of the broom wagon, tired from his hard work.

Nicholas Sanderson - (c) Ken Conley Nicholas Sanderson - (c) Ken Conley Nicholas Sanderson - (c) Ken Conley Jerseys - (c) Ken Conley Ivan Dominguez - (c) Ken Conley Justin England - (c) Ken Conley

Remote shots with no remote

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Sprint Finish - (c) Ken ConleyStart of the First Lap in Augusta - (c) Ken Conley
Photos by Katrina Florence

I spent the day driving from Statesboro to Augusta with Mario, one of the Rock Racing photographers. He noted that the balcony of the media room looked over the finish line and wished he had his remote to shoot with, then came up with a brilliant idea: why not hand off his camera to someone in the press room? I couldn't let a good idea go unmimicked, so I handed my camera off to Katrina Florence/Elevation Sports/Rock Racing. I'm quite happy as she caught a photo of the peloton starting the first lap as well as the separation of the sprinters. One of these days I'll pony up money for a set of Pocket Wizard remotes, but until then, this is actually much better. Thanks Katrina and Mario!

Stage 2: A Close Victory for Haedo

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JJ Haedo Sprints to Victory - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

Statesboro Start - (c) Ken Conley Millen Sprint - (c) Ken Conley

Tour de Georgia Stage 2 Photo Gallery

JJ Haedo sprinted right through the middle of the pack to take a close, close victory of High Road's Greg Henderson. A bandaged hand from a recent break seemed to be no impediment to Haedo, who is a familiar rider atop the podium at the Tour de Georgia. Ivan Dominguez put in a good effort to take third and protect his leader's jersey. Despite talking about how heavy the yellow jersey is, his Toyota United team has done a good job of holding onto it. Justin England spent a lot of time off the front in a breakaway that kept the other teams working and Toyota United rested. In a bit of a surprise, England didn't get the Most Aggressive Award, and instead it went to Marco Polo rider Pollock, who bridged up to England.

Slipstream put in a lot of work for young rider Tyler Farrar. Farrar took the first intermediate sprint to make up for his stage 1 deficit (due to a flat), but Haedo, Henderson, and Dominguez controlled the sprint today.

The best move of the day probably goes to Health Net's Frank Pipp. With no KOMs tomorrow, or Stage 4's TTT, Health Net gets to fly the KOM jersey for three straight stages -- all for a puny Cat 4 on the South Carolina side of the river.

Tour de Georgia Stage 2 Photo Gallery

Stage 1 Bikes/Pre-Race

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Rock Racing - (c) Ken Conley Marco Polo - (c) Ken Conley

Stage 1: Bikes and Misc

I took quite a few Rock Racing bike photos before the race as they were all nicely lined up for me. The photo on the left is sort of a virtual Rock Racing skull -- each skull is an eye and the bike rack is the nose. Or perhaps I need more sleep.

The old Marco Polo bike (another photo) also caught me eye. It's way cooler than their new design, which is just the Astana blue Madones. Unlike Levi's backup bike, the Disco Logo still flies.

I also snagged some candids as the riders emerged from their hotels:

Chechu Rubiera - (c) Ken Conley Bobby Julich - (c) Ken Conley Tyler Hamilton - (c) Ken Conley

Stage 1: Bikes and Misc

Stage 1 journal

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The day started off beautifully at Tybee Island. I stalked Ivan Dominguez and his luggage at the team hotel, figuring that he might produce a win today. I also shot some bike porn, pre-race car washing, and ogled the Jittery Joes BMW team car:

Tybee Island Start - (c) Ken Conley Ivan Dominguez - (c) Ken Conley Toyota-United - (c) Ken Conley Marco Polo - (c) Ken Conley Rock Racing - (c) Ken Conley Team Cars - (c) Ken Conley Team Cars - (c) Ken Conley

Team Type 1 has interesting bidons:

Team Type 1 - (c) Ken Conley

Then there was a quick stop at the lighthouse before I joined the race caravan leaving the island. The power lines are a bit of a bummer. I could have shot less powerlines if I had gone to ground level, but given the presence of three other photographers at the ideal spot down there, I stuck to my guns with the high shot. I could always photoshop out the powerlines ;) (in fact, I did remove one already)

Tybee Lighthouse - (c) Ken Conley

I failed to catch up with the peloton on the other side of Savannah. I made a wrong turn and by the time I corrected they had blazed past. With such a short stage it was a long shot to try and catch them so quickly.

For the sprint finish I attempted to shoot with two cameras: my 70-200 f/2.8 IS in my right hand and my 16-35 in my left. The result of the experiment was a bit of a failure as the wide shot isn't worth it and I couldn't adjust the zoom on my 70-200 -- it's a bit too wide. Next time I coming with Pocket Wizard remotes! (if I have the $$$)

Sprint Finish in Savannah - (c) Ken Conley Dominguez Wins - (c) Ken Conley

After the finish I took some shots up Dominguez's nostrils and did the podium thing. It was nice to see Scott Nydam reprise his role from the Tour of California. It was also amusing to see Robert Forster with lipstick on his cheek, which unfortunately doesn't photograph well.

Ivan Dominguez - (c) Ken Conley Ivan Dominguez - (c) Ken Conley Robert Forster - (c) Ken Conley Scott Nydam - (c) Ken Conley

Dominguez takes Stage 1

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Dominguez Wins - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley
Tybee Lighthouse - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

Stage 1 Photos

With his baby due any moment, Ivan Dominguez must have decided that getting a stage win early was important. Dominique Rollin set him up well for the sprint and Dominguez's jump was well-timed -- despite not being able to see the finish line until 100m to go. Dominguez now has the overall lead at the Tour de Georgia, but he noted that "it's heavy" and that he'd prefer one in green. His teammate Stevic was already out on the road today trying to sweep up as many sprint points as he could to protect Dominguez.

In an odd break during the day, Danielson, Julich, and Horner jumped off the front. Julich and Horner are easy to understand as they haven't been tapped as team leaders, but Danielson's jump either means his lieutenants failed to cover or that that he isn't their leader... or maybe he was just having fun. Either way, the break didn't hold and Nydam, Meier, Van Ulden,and Pipp had the honor of being the last break on the road. Nydam's effort put him in the familiar position of donning the Most Aggressive Rider jersey at the end of the day.

Today's stage was beautiful, brief, and flat. Chris Baldwin joked with a CSC rider before the stage that the route was a criterium. The KOM jersey won't be donned until tomorrow after riders are sent over a small climb on the finishing 5 mile circuit.

Stage 1 Photos

Pre-event photos

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Levi Leipheimer - (c) Ken Conley Santiago Botero - (c) Ken Conley Christian Vandevelde - (c) Ken Conley Pre-event - (c) Ken Conley

Pre-event - (c) Ken Conley Pre-event - (c) Ken Conley Pre-event - (c) Ken Conley

Tour de Georgia Pre-Race Photos

I don't think I offend anyone by saying that conferences are boring to tears. Thankfully this time around they did the race organizers separately from the riders, so there are no shots this time of riders jamming fingers and water bottles in their face to stay awake. The main highlights were that Levi said that this year's course looks easier, race organizers are happy to feature more of eastern Georgia, Ivan Dominguez's unborn child has told him that it doesn't want to be a cyclist, and Tom Danielson has bought up all of his Brasstown Bald coffee as its performance-enhancing powers spurred Levi to victory last year. It seems that Astana, Slipstream, and Rock Racing are the most invested in this race.

I also posted some photos from driving around Tybee Island where, due to its single road in and out, is quite easy to find top international cyclists.

Tour de Georgia Pre-Race Photos

TdG: 36 hours to flight departure

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Last night was when I first started feeling the run-up to the Tour de Georgia. I'm mostly packed and should be in Savannah on Sunday. The weather forecast is hot weather plus thunderstorms, including on Brasstown Bald. Much like the California weather forecast predicts the same thing every day, I hear that repeating "hot with a chance of t-storms" will earn your salary as a Georgia weatherman. It makes me much happier about my lavish purchase of an Aquatech rain cover, though I'll be glad to keep it in mint condition if that's how the weather turns out. The Tour of California gave me enough rainy pictures for the books.

The setup for this year's Tour de Georgia looks pretty exciting. Slipstream will have a strong TTT roster (Zabriskie, Pate, Vandevelde, Farrar) plus Tom Danielson to challenge Astana. Astana will be well-motivated by the lack of other races on their calendar and even pull Horner from Amstel Gold to be in the race, though they left last year's winner Janez Brajkovic out due to overtraining. There are also several other teams with pride from exclusion on the line. Rock Racing adds a big question mark to the story as no one really knows what their top riders can do against an International roster of this caliber. Botero took Redlands against a field that contains many of the same riders and Sevilla could definitely do well on Brasstown. Symmetrics will have its first chance to show off in a Medalist event this year.

There's also some farewells, for me at least. This will be my last chance to see Chechu on US soil -- I'll be sporting a Chechu-signed Astana cap, courtesy of Nicky Orr. This is also the last time I'll see CSC, at least under those colors. After the Tour de Georgia, there's just the CSC Invitational + Triple Crown the first week of June.

Tour de Georgia Roster Posted

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The TdG riders roster has been posted. I don't pretend to understand cycling rules and agreements enough to know why Botero/Sevilla/Hamilton can race the Tour de Georgia but not the Tour of California, but I go with what the link says.

I'm excited to see a good roster for the event, even with the small number of teams: Horner, Leipheimer, Chechu, Julich, McGee, McCartney, Haedo, Hincapie, Forster, Tuft, Danielson, Farrar, Vandevelde, Pate, Zabriskie, Sutherland, Menzies, Baldwin, Rollin, Dominguez, and more. American cycling will be well represented, though with Cozza on the DL, there will be only one mustache.

TdG: Will there be Rock?

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Rock Racing - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley
Conflicting reports are emerging as to whether or not Rock Racing has negotiated its way back into the Tour de Georgia. Despite offering to pay its own way, Rock Racing was spurned from the initial list of teams. Rock sued Medalist for its exclusion and and is finding its case easier to make with the news that Saunier Duval has dropped out due to injuries.

Update: There will be Rock

15 Teams for the Tour de Georgia

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The Tour de Georgia team list is now finally official. Adding to the eight initial teams are Symmetrics, Saunier-Duval, GE-Marco Polo, Jelly Belly, Team Type 1, Health Net, and Toyota-United. Symmetrics has also scored an invite to the Tour of Missouri. GE-Marco Polo is a Chinese Pro team with former Discovery rider Fuyu Li.

The organizers have tried to make it easy for the invited teams: time trial bikes are banned this year so International teams won't have to be troubled shipping in the extra TT equipment. It will be TT ala Merckx.

  • Astana
  • CSC
  • Gerolsteiner
  • High Road
  • Saunier Duval-Scott
  • BMC
  • Slipstream-Chipotle
  • Symmetrics
  • Bissell
  • GE-Marco Polo
  • Health Net-Maxxis
  • Jelly Belly
  • Jittery Joe's
  • Team Type 1
  • Toyota-United

Rock Racing appears to be in trouble. On the heels of Cipollini quitting -- but not to race Milan San Remo -- they now have no Tour de Georgia as hoped.

photo by blacknell

In a sight familiar to US Tour watchers, JJ Haedo took the sprint just ahead of Fast Freddie, exactly revenge for yesterday's near-win. Second place overall and a stage win will probably make CSC happier, or perhaps they are still warm and fuzzy from O'Grady's Paris-Roubaix win. Regardless, they probably don't want to keep playing second-fiddle to the Discovery train when it comes to Tours.

There was much celebration in the Discovery camp that managed to walk away with Best Overall/Young Rider, Best Team, and two stage wins. Janez Brajkovic dumped champagne on a podium girl, Hincapie and Leipheimer dumped champagne on Brajkovic, but Frank Steele was surely hiding his camera from the bubbly carnage.

Jittery Joe's can also celebrate as Cesar Grajales took Most Aggressive rider on the day.

Tour de Georgia Stage 6: Fast Freddie

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Fast Freddie took the win today and put Predictor-Lotto on the board. The sprinters finally got their chance in the Tour de Georgia after earlier chances were spoiled by long breakaways and last-minute flyers. Toyota-United and CSC controlled the peloton today as Discovery Channel was able to sit back and watch as the two other teams setup their sprinters. Health Net tried to throw some riders off the front in the final miles -- even Toyota-United's Ivan Stevic tried to get in on the second attempt -- but it all came down to a field sprint. CSC has to be unhappy going into the final day of the TdG as they're still with no stage wins as Freddie outhrew JJ Haedo for the win. George Hincapie was a surprising third and David Millar a surprising fourth, Ivan Dominguez took fifth, which makes me question all of Ivan Stevic's last-minute attacks.

The most ambitious break on the day was a 22-man break that included Tom Danielson, Dave Zabriskie, and Nathan O'Neill, but it didn't last very long. Instead, a smaller break with Maarten Wynants (Quick Step), Olivier Kaisen (Predictor-Lotto), and Glen Alan Chadwick (Navigators) stayed away until the final lap in Stone Mountain Park.

Unlucky TdG rider: Chris Baldwin

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Chris BaldwinCaught this in the cyclingnews live coverage:

We also spoke to Chris Baldwin of the Toyota United team before the race. Baldwin spent much of yesterday in the break. Baldwin said he bonked hard because he hadn't eaten enough during the stage. "I ate so much last night but I still feel bad." The bad luck didn't end there for Baldwin; he also lost a necklace during the race which carried his wedding ring.

I don't know how that ranks with crashing out of first place for the USPRO TT championship, but that's a pretty bad race day.

Update: VeloNews has more

Brasstown Bald photos

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Tom Danielson on Brasstown Bald, by Eric Reagan

The bloggers are starting to checkin with their photosets so it's time to start gathering the links. Eric Reagan (of cyclingshots) has one of the best shots I've seen on the day -- Tom Danielson climbing Brasstown Bald and what looks like Levi in his shadow.

Missingsaddle has a set from the climb

Cyclingnews contributor Sadlebred has a nice gallery of tired riders finishing, including Levi's finishing salute.

James of Bicycle Design has a great set of photos from 150m to the finish

George Hincapie by jctdesign Tom Danielson by jctdesign Tyler Hamilton by jctdesign

Frank Steele has promised photos as well, as soon as his Internet connection permits.

Tour de Georgia Stage 5: Brasstown Bald

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Levi Leipheimer by James/jctdesign
Levi Leipheimer 150m from the finish by jctdesign
It's the mountaintop finish that Tour-of-Californians dream of, with a result fitting for the Tour of California as Levi Leipheimer took the stage win with a solo attack up Brasstown Bald. With his TdG and ToC performances, Leipheimer's season is starting out much like Floyd Landis' infamous 2006 season, except the Stage 3 29-minute gap will keep Leipheimer from donning the TdG overall jersey. For all intents and purposes, though, the ITT and Brasstown Bald wins clearly anoint Leipheimer as the strongest rider. Leipheimer's teammate Brajkovic gets the official honor after sticking to Christian Vandevelde's wheel the whole way up, while Tom Danielson, another TdG hopeful, took second on the day to complete the dominance for Discovery Channel.

The US continental teams sent their best riders on a breakaway to get some coverage and hopefully get on the board. Danny Pate (Slipstream), Chris Baldwin (Toyota-United), Ryder Hesjedal (Health Net), Ben Day (Navigators Insurance), Anthony Colby (Colavita/Sutter Home), Phil Zajicek (Navigators Insurance), and Alexandre Moos (BMC) were all present. CSC also managed to sneak in Michael Blaudzun. Their break managed to make it over the penultimate climb in the lead but the peloton was highly interested in bringing it back for Brasstown Bald.

Moos was the first rider from the break to reach the slopes and his attack sent many of the breakaway riders back into the peloton. From the peloton, Danielson, Leipheimer, and Simoni were the first to launch a move. Much like his move on Sierra Road in the ToC, Leipheimer was able to quickly bridged up through the remnants of the early break. Danielson and Simoni were left behind as Leipheimer soloed his way up most of the climb.

In the race for the overall lead, Vandevelde and Brajkovic stayed glued to one another. Brajkovic just had to stay on Vandevelde's wheel to stay in the lead and keep the day all-Discovery.

Levi Leipheimer, TdG stage 4, Photo by whileseated
photo by whileseated
Leipheimer continues to show his early-season TT form with a dominating 41-second win over David Zabriskie. Brajkovic was able to leap into the overall lead by easily besting Canada's TT. Today's results show what might have been: with Leipheimer, Zabriskie, O'Neill, and Danielson in the top four, they could have been the ones fighting for the overall win. But either storyline is good for Discovery that is now starting to dominate this TdG. Discovery and CSC split most of the glory in the ToC, but we're still waiting to see some sparks from CSC in the TdG. Christian Vandevelde is sitting in second overall, so it now looks up to him or JJ Haedo to start putting CSC on the board.

Stage 3 was a new route for the Tour de Georgia and no one probably predicted it to be as decisive as it became. Gianni Meersman of Discovery took the victory and David Canada of Saunier Duval took the overall from a breakaway that finished with a 29:07 gap on the peloton. This may be a double victory for Discovery as ultralight Janez Brajkovic is in good position to take the overall lead. This probably erases his teammate Tom Danielson's hopes of victory, but a team is a team. Christian Vandevelde of CSC was in the break and has a good shot at taking the overall in the TT.

The breakaway was well-composed to stay away. With riders from Discovery, Quick Step, CSC, Health Net, Slipstream, BMC, and Navigators represented, there weren't enough interested teams in the pack to chase. Tinkoff had the strategic responsibility to protect their overall lead, but were underpowered with only 6 riders. That left Toyota United, Jittery Joes, Predictor/Lotto, and Priority Health to do the work, but as the lead passed 20 minutes the peloton no longer seemd to be interested in chasing.

With the race in their favor, the breakaway had plenty of time to attack itself and sort out the final victor. Quick Step and Saunier Duval each had two riders and decided to send a rider up the road (Seeldrayers and Bertogliati). Seeldrayers and Bertogliati were able to stay ahead for 10km before it was brought back in with about 3km to go. Jeff Louder of Health Net launched an almost immediate counterattack and built up a lead of over ten seconds before he was reeled in. Christian Vandevelde of CSC attempted an attack just outside of 1km to go but he was reeled in even quicker.

Louder launched another attack in the final kilometer. Gianni Meersman of Discovery chased it down and outkicked everyone to take the finish.

A lot of teams will probably be fuming that they let the race slip away so early, while teams like Discovery, Saunier Duval, and CSC will have to figure out how to win the overall without their race favorites.

Tour de Georgia Stage 2

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Getty Photos/Doug PensingerToyota-United and CSC have two of the best sprinters at the TdG -- Ivan Dominguez and JJ Haedo -- but both decided to mix things up by sending a rider off the front with a couple kms to go. Dave Zabriskie went first by attacking on the climb but got reeled in. Ivan Stevic of Toyota United then took his chances and held off the pack for the victory -- no need for the Cuban Missile today. JJ Haedo took the sprint for second.

Daniele Contrini of Tinkoff took today's stage win from a breakaway that went with 95 km to go and bridged up to Navigator's Rapinkski. Contrini jumped from the break and held the lead for the win despite a chase from the sprint teams that swallowed up his fellow breakaway riders.

The Adobe Tour Tracker is back (a popular item from the Tour of California) and available from the Tour de Georgia Web site.

Also back: George Hincapie with his wrist still on the mend and Tyler Hamilton with his reputation still on the mend.

The Tour de Georgia is on

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Tour de GeorgiaI can at long last create my 'Tour de Georgia 2007' category: VeloNews is reporting that the race will move forward as planned. Instead of a single marque sponsor, it appears that a "coalition of committed sponsors" chipped in to keep the race rolling in full for another year.

If they can secure one more year then I can finally book my tickets to go see the event :)

Update: according to cyclingnews, there are twelve host community sponsors with the Georgia Department of Economic Development getting the title role. I guess this makes the TdG the GDEcDTdG.

Paris-Nice/ProTour olive branch?

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Things are looking slightly better on the other side of the pond as CyclingNews is reporting that the UCI and ASO/RCS/Unipublic seem to have somehow hammered out temporary grievances long enough for Paris-Nice and the rest of the cycling season to go forward. There is a bit of a cloud over Unibet and Astana in that they get wild card invitations to the organizers events, with caveats:

"Without prejudicing their right to grant wild cards to all other teams of their choice, for the duration of this agreement ASO, RCS and Unipublic will examine in a positive spirit the granting of wild cards to the teams Astana and Unibet, in particular insofar as such decisions are not likely to expose or be likely to expose the organisers to legal consequences, of whatever nature they might be."

This clause seems to mostly target Unibet. Unibet's team has been in trouble as their jerseys run afoul of French laws prohibiting advertisements for gambling that compete with the French national lottery FD Jeux (coincidentally, also a cycling team).

The silliest bit of the whole deal to me is that ASO/RCS/Unipublic seem to have won the concession that they don't have to award the ProTour jersey at their events. I mean, they handed out awards for best port-a-potty at the Tour of California Solvang time trial -- is it really that hard to acknowledge the current ProTour leader (likely to be a fan favorite anyway)?

With things looking better over there, hopefully so miracles will start happening in the US to rescue the US Open Cycling Championships and Tour de Georgia, which are in a serious funding shortfall. The US Cycling Open in particular lost is executive director with only six weeks to go. As much as I wanted to judge the state of US cycling from the Tour of California, it may just be in an oasis in the current turmoil.

Update: slight edits and note about jersey presentation

Update 2: the US Open Cycling Championships have named a new executive director. Also, Unibet is not happy.

Tour de Georgia Coverage

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Tour de Georgia 2006: Landis dominates the US scene and holds off Danielson

Tour de Georgia 2007: A long break gets Brajkovic the overall

Tour de Georgia 2008

Tour de Georgia Stage 5 and Stage 6

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I was a doubter. I shouldn't be anymore. Floyd Landis has shown that he is the best American rider right now. Landis didn't win the climb up Brasstown Bald -- it was Tom Danielson's victory, as expected. However, I think most people, like myself, expected Tom Danielson to win by a huge margin. Instead, Danielson couldn't get even one of the four seconds he needed to take the overall lead from Landis. Landis managed to hold his own even with Discovery attacking with their three great weapons, Danielson, Popovych, and McCartney. Landis' defense on Stage 5 sealed his overall victory as Stage 6 was one for the sprinters -- JJ Haedo continued to make bank for Toyota United with his sprint victory.

Landis is a better climber and a better time trialer than he has ever been before. If he can manage to preserve this form into the Tour de France, I'll have to revise my early Tour de France predictions and put Landis on that podium. As is, he has to be very happy with Tour of California, Paris-Nice, and Tour de Georgia overall victories.

Even with Danielson not winning the overall, it was still a fairly dominating performance by Discovery: two stage wins, first in the team competition, McCartney was King of the Mountain, Brajkovic was Best Young Rider, and they took second (Danielson) and third (Popovych) in the overall competition.

Stage 5 prediction check: Danielson won the stage, but he didn't take the overall
Stage 6 prediction check: Fast Freddie finished 4th

Tour de Georgia Stage 4

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I didn't think Fast Freddie would get his win until stage 6, but he was strong enough to hold off another attempt by discovery to setup Popovych for a win. It was Jason McCartney who nearly ruled the day. After being the lone survivor of the major break of the day, he was caught on the descent from the final KOM climb. It only took him three minutes to catch his breath and join another attack, but he was reeled in again -- there would be no repeat of his victory from two years ago (at least not this year).

A surprise move was Dave Zabriskie joining the major break. Phonak obviously wasn't going to let that one fly, but Zabriskie noted that he made the attack for two reasons: he wasn't going to win on Brasstown Bald and he wanted to do something to recognize recovering American rider Saul Raisin, who is recovering from a crash that led to a medically-induced coma.

Prediction check: I predicted Ekimov or someone else on a crazy breakaway -- Discovery teammate Jason McCartney went for that crazy breakaway -- twice -- but admitted he just didn't have the legs to pull it off this time around.

Tour de Georgia Stage 2

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Popo! Discovery Channel's up-and-coming phenom Yaroslav Popovych pulled of a good bit of strategy on what was expected to be a bunch sprint. Discovery took control of the front of the peloton and launched Popo on a hill in the final kilometer. The strategy was great -- Haedo and Freddie froze, neither wanting to waste their legs chasing, and by the time the chase started it was too late. Haedo, Freddie, Manion, and Menzies were left to duke it out for second as Popo crossed the line six seconds ahead.

Alejandro Acton of Tragettraining spent a lot of time in a solo break today on what was a rainy day of racing. Acton was caught at the KOM point near the finish. Sea Otter winner Matty Rice gave it a go with one lap to go on the finishing circuit in Rome, but he was caught as well. Stage 1 winner Lars Michaelsen took second place in the second sprint point, so he may have padded his lead going into tomorrow's stage, but most likely he was just trying to help teammate Dave Zabriskie out by making sure no one else was taking that time bonus -- Zabriskie wants to start as late in the order as possible in the time trial. With the current standings, Zabriskie will have to sit tight and watch as Landis and Danielson roll in. I'm looking forward to seeing the field finally sort itself out.

Prediction check: JJ Haedo finished second

Tour de Georgia predictions

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The first stage was a sprint finish, so I guess it's not too late to make predictions.

Stage 2: JJ Haedo

Stage 3: Zabriskie win + overall lead (Floyd did beat DZ last year and also at the Tour of Cali, but I want to see DZ win)

Stage 4: Ekimov (or some other rider on a crazy break)

Stage 5: Tom Danielson win + overall lead (with Trent Lowe and Popo as teammates, I would have to pick Team Disco on this stage)

Stage 6: Fast Freddie

There's definitely something wrong with my predictions in that Landis isn't on this list. He's so strong that it seems pretty crazy not to have him listed here, but part of me thinks that Landis might tone it down just a little bit so that he can save some form for the Tour de France.

Tour de Georgia Stage 1

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Lars Michaelsen gets the stage victory for CSC with Davitamon's Fast Freddie in second. The win is a great reward for Michaelsen, who just last week helped launch Fabian Cancellara to his Paris-Roubaix victory. After getting blanked in the Tour of California, the Tour de Georgia is already looking a lot better for CSC. Dave Zabriskie has stated that he wants to take over control of the race at the time trial, so perhaps we'll see a lot of CSC in the leader's jersey this time around.

The main break of the day was a group of four riders, including Kodakgallery/Sierrra Nevada rider Jackson Stewart. I've seen a lot of Stewart racing this past couple of months from his Most aggresive distinction at the Tour of California Stage 1 to his fourth place finish at Sea Otter. With second place finishes at the Grant Lemire GP and McLane Crit, maybe the cards are in it for Stewart to take a stage at the TdG, though definitely not stage 1 as the break was caught at the start of the 3-lap, 2.1-mile finishing circuit. Aaron Olson tried to escape the other three riders and stay ahead of the catch, but he too was gobbled up. CSC then put in two attacks on the finishing circuits, were caught, and still managed to pull of the stage win. Toyota United's Ivan Dominguez crashed in the final sprint, but hopefully he will be okay as I'm sure that Toyota wants a repeat of their stellar ToC performance.

The start of the Tour de Georgia almost flew under my radar this year. They don't have quite the roster of last year or of the Tour of Cali: Armstrong's retired, Horner and Julich are in Europe, Levi's in California but he's dropping by local races like Copperopolis, and Hincapie's in South Carolina but he's on the mend. You do, however, get to see Danielson, Popovych, Zabriskie, Landis, Fast Freddie, and more. You also get to see Jittery Joe's team, which is a squad I can always cheer on -- oh how I missed their presence at the Tour of California.

I watched the live text coverage on VeloNews. It's quite an upgrade from their previous live coverage. They have a Google Map widget that tracks the current position and it's easier to see at a glance what the current situation is.