American star Floyd Landis/Phonak providing a resounding confirmation of his Tour de France contender status as he easily defended his four-second overall lead throughout today’s Stage Five, the most difficult of this year’s Ford Tour de Georgia. Tom Danielson duplicated his win of 2005, but was not able to distance the Floyd.
– Reported by Chris Gutowsky of VйloSport Vacations
Landis never showed signs of strain despite serious pressure from a strong Discovery Team throughout the day over the difficult terrain of the 95 mile stage from Blairsville, GA to the mountain-top finish at Brasstown Bald, the highest point in the state at 4784 feet. With the race arguably in the bag for Landis, Discovery made due with a few minor successes: the stage win for Danielson, the overall United Community Bank King of the Mountains title which was sealed by Jason McCartney and the day’s Aaron’s Most Aggressive Rider award for Yaroslav Popovych.
Floyd Might Have Won, But You’ll Remember McCartney
McCartney, who won the most aggressive prize yesterday, looked again be a strong candidate for the win on Saturday. After spending over 100 miles off the front Friday, he jumped in the today’s first real move and spent another 80+ miles off the front, once again becoming the leader on the road for a portion of the race. His efforts not only helped keep Phonak on the defensive, but put him into the mountain leader’s jersey for good.
After dropping his five breakaway companions on the first climb of the day at Hogpen Gap, he crested first Hogpen, then Unicoi Gap alone in the lead. TIAA-CREF’s Lucas Euser, who started the day as KOM leader, was initially in the group with McCartney, but even a helping hand from teammate Will Frishkorn wasn’t enough to keep Euser on board the McCartney Train.
How Strong Is He?
Post-race, stage winner Danielson said he could not believe McCartney’s performance. “He doesn’t even know how strong he is. And you may not know it, but he had to stop near the end of Stage Two because of a stomach problem. Then he caught back on the group by himself and he was in the breakaway all day yesterday and again today. I can’t wait to see him do something at the Giro.”
On To The Main Event
The remains of the field, led by the Phonak squad, caught McCartney on the final descent and headed towards Brasstown Bald, where Popovych stepped forward to keep the pressure on. Riders rapidly dropped off on the 10% slopes of the now legendary climb, leaving Danielson, Popovych and Landis together in front. The Ukrainian continued his efforts; despite struggling at times, he regained contact and continued to alternate between attacking for and protecting Danielson, thereby earning his aggressive award.
With less than a mile to go, Cesar Grajales made contact from the back and Popovych made another attack. Danielson used this as a springboard for a last ditch effort to gain the critical four seconds. Popovych was passed and dropped near the 500 meter line, but Landis had no trouble following, even pulling up next to the Discovery rider inside the 100 meter mark before his rival made a final little surge for the stage win.
Though he gained no time on his Landis, Danielson still seemed content with his performance. “I rode a very good time trial the other day and with the stage win today, I have nothing to complain about. Floyd is one of the best riders in the world.” With the Phonak rider having sealed his 3rd major stage-race victory of the year, few in Europe and no one in Georgia would argue with Danielson on that score.
Stage 5 Atop Lovely Brasstown Results
1 Thomas Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel 4.05.56
2 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems
3 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel 0.18
4 Cesar Augusto Grajales (Col) Navigators Insurance 0.23
5 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Discovery Channel
6 Remmert Wielinga (Ned) Quick Step-Innergetic 0.28
7 Josй Enrique Gutierrez Cataluna (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems 0.49
8 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Discovery Channel 1.35
9 Justin England (USA) Toyota-United Pro 1.49
10 Marco Pinotti (Ita) Prodir-Saunier Duval 1.58
General Classification After Five Stages
1 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 19.23.10
2 Thomas Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel 0.04
3 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel 1.55
4 Josй Enrique Gutierrez Cataluna (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems 2.11
5 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Discovery Channel 2.15
6 David Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC 2.31
7 Nathan O’Neill (Aus) Health Net p/b Maxxis 3.45
8 Marco Pinotti (Ita) Prodir-Saunier Duval 3.54
9 Christopher Baldwin (USA) Toyota-United Pro 4.01
10 Cesar Augusto Grajales (Col) Navigators Insurance 4.20
11 Justin England (USA) Toyota-United Pro 4.35
12 Remmert Wielinga (Ned) Quick Step-Innergetic 4.43
13 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Discovery Channel 5.05
14 Brian Vandborg (Den) Team CSC 5.25
15 Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus) Discovery Channel 6.07
16 Jurgen Van De Walle (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic 6.59
17 Johann Tschopp (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 7.08
18 Inigo Cuesta Lopez De Castro (Spa) Team CSC 8.11
19 Todd Wells (USA) Targetraining 8.24
20 Trent Wilson (Aus) Jittery Joe’s-Zero Gravity 8.33
Today’s race report provided by Chris Gutowsky of VйloSport Vacations. Check ‘em out for some great ideas for your next cycling trip. For more information, contact VйloSport Vacations at P.O. Box 1235, Bloomington, IN 47402, 800-988-9833, www.VeloVacations.com