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April 26, 2004

TDFBlog on Brasstown Bald

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Mrs. TDFBlog and I have never seen a mountain finish before, and decided to try our luck at the Brasstown Bald finish of the Tour de Georgia on Saturday. Traffic was moving surprisingly well until we could see the roadblock near where the 180A spur turns up the mountain, so we found a spot, and started trekking up the mountain.

We got a quarter-mile or so up the side, and came to the 5-km to go banner, where not many people were lining the roadway. Apparently, the people even lazier than us were all congregated near the turnoff, while the people motivated to arrive early (and unencumbered by a 10 a.m. girls 8-and-under soccer game) had caught the shuttle buses to the top.

The car is the official pace car of this year's Tour de Georgia. It's the 2005 Dodge Magnum wagon, and yes, that thing does have a hemi. (With this and all the pictures in this post, you can click for a larger pop-up image).

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It turned out we were fairly well-positioned. Late in the stage, Alessio Galletti of Domina Vacanze jumped out to about a 4 minute lead, and took the King of the Mountain points at Hogpen Gap. The final climb of the day was about 20 kilometers, culminating with the 5+ kilometers up to the top. At 5 km to go, Galletti still had his lead (see the picture), but the pack was just down around that bend, about 35 seconds behind, and closing fast.

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Next came the motorcycles, and we got a look at the whole story of the race in one picture: working from right to left, we've got Daniel Rincon pacing race leader Lance Armstrong. Just behind him, in green, is Chris Horner of Webcor, who would finish 4th on the day and 3rd in the race. The paired CSC riders are Bobby Julich, who finished 6th at Brasstown Bald and 4th overall and Jens Voigt (2nd on the day and for the race). There's just the hint of an unidentified yellow helmet on Voigt's other side, then Scott Moninger, who was 5th on the climb and 7th overall, and just coming into view, in orange, Cesar Grajales of the Athens-based Jittery Joe's team, who rode away from this group less than a mile later to score the stage win. He finished 6th for the race.

Close behind this group were some of the leaders' seconds: George Hincapie of US Postal, Charles Dionne of Webcor, and King of the Mountains jersey Jason McCartney of HealthNet, all in danger of losing the lead group. They weren't alone, as some very strong riders came through onesy-twosy: Max Sciandri, Pavel Padrnos, Jakob Piil, Antonio Cruz. A lone Barcoworld rider came through just before the ambulance, leading me to think we might seen everyone, but someone along the course said there was still one more group to come.

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Sure enough, a team car pulled up about 30 yeards to our right, and out popped the soigneurs for Domina Vacanze, setting up to hand bottles off to their riders. Six or seven minutes behind the stragglers of the lead group, the gruppetto (the laughing group) of about 30 riders came through, with 3 or 4 Domina Vacanze riders angling to get right in front of us. One of them was former world champion Mario Cipollini, who was not enjoying a 20-kilometer climb. Damon Kluck of US Postal was riding alongside.

We were able to get out of there very quickly, since the shuttle buses from the top couldn't even start running until well after the race was over. We took the chance to head over to Athens for Saturday night's Twilight Criterium, celebrating its 25th Anniversary.

During my freshman year (1985-86), I lived on the 4th floor of Reed Hall (right next to Sanford Stadium) with a bike-crazy roommate (I didn't ride then). He had worked in a shop in Atlanta, and somehow invited the Killians Red team, which featured brothers Alan and Frank McCormack, to stay in our TV lounge. Somehow, they accepted. They provided the post-race keg, and my roommate got a jersey out of it.

If you ever have a chance to see it, don't miss it: Thousands of people line a circuit in downtown Athens, and the race almost never takes off before dark, so the riders are flying through under the downtown streetlights.

(I'm posting this Monday morning, but I'm going to move it back to the coverage from Saturday in a couple of days. If you have trouble finding it, that's probably why.)

Posted by Frank Steele on April 26, 2004 in Bobby Julich, Chris Horner, Jens Voigt, Lance Armstrong 2004, Mario Cipollini, Photo galleries, Tour de Georgia | Permalink

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