April 23, 2006

Tour de Georgia Stage 5 and Stage 6

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

April 21, 2006

Tour de Georgia Stage 4

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 3

Photo by Frank SteeleFloyd Landis edged out Dave Zabriskie by 24 seconds, which was strikingly similar to his 26 second victory over Zabriskie in Stage 3 of the Tour of California, except that this time around Tom Danielson managed to hang right up there at only 4 seconds back. Everyone has been expecting Danielson to be the strong man in the mountains, so this surprise showing in the time trial I think will have the odds makers favoring a repeat victory.

credit: photo by Frank Steele. More photos on Flickr

Prediction check: DZ finished third. I'll get one of these right eventually.

April 19, 2006

Tour de Georgia Stage 2

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

April 18, 2006

Tour de Georgia predictions

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

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.