TdGeorgia St1: It’s CSC Again
The 4th edition of the Ford Tour de Georgia opened up with typical warm spring weather and a scorchingly fast stage from Augusta to Macon. Despite the efforts of a gutsy 4-man breakaway led by Aaron’s’ Most Aggressive Rider, American Aaron Olson, the race came down to a group finish, taken handlily by CSC’s classics strong-man, Lars Michaelsen.
– Reported by Chris Gutowsky of VйloSport Vacations
Though most expected a humdrum first day run on an identical route to last year’s yawner, the peleton had other ideas. No sooner had the opening parade laps around Augusta ended, the flag went down and the attacks began. None of the various solo and group efforts gained more than 10-15 seconds, but the first two hours of flat racing averaged almost 28 miles an hour. The first two of three intermediate sprints also came in this rapid stretch, with both points and time boneses at stake, which only contributed to the speed. The 1st sprint came in Harlem, at 22 miles, and was nabbed by Targettraining’s key sprinter, Argentinian Alejandro Acton. His compatriot and fellow sprint jersey contender Juan Jose Haedo took the 2nd sprint, coming at mile 43 in Warrenton.
The non-stop action continued until, at the 60 mile mark, four riders took advantage of a brief respite to slip off the front; Prodir-Saunier Duval’s Olson was joined by Jackson Steward (USA/KadakGallery.com -Sierra Nevada), Dan Bowman (USA/TIAA-CREF) and Neil Shirley (USA-Jitter Joe’s-Zero Gravity Pro).The main players in the field quickly resigned themselves to reeling in the small group late in the game, and the lead was over a minute in just 3 short miles. With the four working smoothly together and taking full advantage of a slight tailwind, their gap ballooned to a maximum of 11:15 near the 80 mile mark. The escapees had 9 minutes plus still in hand rolling through the 3rd sprint town, Milledgeville, after 90 miles. Here, Bowman’s took 2nd place to Steward, but harvested a 2-second bonus that gave him a temporary leg-up in the best young rider competition.
When the time came to move, the main group got it rollling, with G.C. contenders Discover and Phonak putting 5 riders each on the front. Wide open roads, lightly rolling terrain and the continued slight tailwind helped the peleton bring the lead down rapidly, from 5:45 with 25 miles left, to less than 3 minutes with 15 miles to go. It was at this point that Olson, well aware of the rapidly closing chasers, gave it his all, finally dropping his three companions after the third of three blistering attacks. This proved to be for naught, as the others were caught less than 3 miles later, with Olson brought in just before entering the first of 3 2.1-mile finishing circuits in downtown Macon.
2nd-place finisher Rodriguez later described the finishing circuits as “great for the crowds and for the stronger riders.” Most riders wouldn’t argue with that, as a brisk series of attacks and a short, cobbled climb cut the bunch almost in half for the now inevitable bunch sprint. Those shelled included all four early escapees, but none of the expected contendors. Michaelson, whose list of 24 pro wins includes classic Gent-Wevelgem, took the sprint handily with final gap of more than a bike length, aided by his experience and a tip from an old friend, Mark McCormack (Colavita-Sutter Home Wines). “McCormack and I go back to 1999, when I helped him win a race similarly at the Tour of Denmark.” The Dane, motivated after hearing McCormick’s quick summary of the finishing circuit, used his experience to stay at the front up to and through the finishing two corners in the last 500 meters. While he was able to sprint cleanly to the line, Rodriguez and lead-out man Henk Vogels got pinched in last turn traffic, with “Fast-Freddy” forced to start his sprint from near 10th position.
Michaelson’s stage win garnered him a time bonus good for the Ford race leader’s jersey. With none of the intermediate sprint winner’s placing above Heado’s 4th, the Dane also took the 1st Maxxis Sprint Leader’s jersey. Few seemed to believe either jersey would remain with him until the end, but he seemed quite happy for the moment, as were most fans with the unexpectedly active opening day of on the warm, welcoming roads of Georgia.
Results: Tour De Georgia 2006 – Stage 1 Augusta – Macon
1. Lars Michaelsen (Den) Team CSC 4.45.46
2. Fred Rodriguez (USA) Davitamon-Lotto
3. Caleb Manion (Aus) Jelly Belly
4. Karl Menzies (Aus) Health Net p/b Maxxis
5. Vassili Davidenko (Rus) Navigators Insurance
6. Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) KodakGallery.Com-Sierra Nevada
7. Juan Josй Haedo (Arg) Toyota-United Pro
8. Henk Vogels (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
9. Peter Mazur (Pol) Prodir-Saunier Duval
10. Cesar Augusto Grajales (Col) Navigators Insurance
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