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.
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.
Getting 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.
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.
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.