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April 23, 2005

Danielson takes Brasstown Bald, overall lead at Tour de Georgia

Sorry for no "as it happens" updates: I've been out on the course, suffering from an unbelievably cold day for a Georgia April.

My vantage point: Hog Pen Gap, 17 miles from the finish, at the day's 3rd King of the Mountains line. We saw the very scattered snow flurry, and had a brief bout of sleet, just as the lead group arrived.

The crowds were incredible through the mountains; Dave from Operation Gadget said parking was gone for 5 miles approaching the spur road to Brasstown Bald. Where I was, at Hog Pen Gap, roadside spaces were gone by around 2, with the riders eventually coming through around 4:30.

In Gainesville this morning, Viatcheslav Ekimov predicted that Discovery Channel would take the stage and the overall lead today, but didn't name any names.

As the peloton rolled into the mountains, Jittery Joe's rider Tim Johnson took a flyer, and Discovery's Jason McCartney covered the break. The two would ride together over the day's first two climbs, building a lead of almost 2:30 at times. Discovery's José-Luis Rubiera took 3rd over each climb to defend his King of the Mountains jersey.

Shortly before reaching Hog Pen, Lance Armstrong launched an attack, and was covered by almost all of the stage and GC hopefuls, including yellow jersey Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer, Tom Danielson, Saul Raisin and Trent Lowe (fighting it out for the young rider's jersey), Saunier Duval-Prodir's Nicolas Fritsch and Marco Pinotti, and, by the Hog Pen summit, Bobby Julich and a teammate (picture at right - click for larger).

I say "and a teammate," because some sources say it was Andy Schleck, but just after the group passed Hog Pen Gap, Christian Vande Velde launched an attack that he sustained all the way onto Brasstown Bald. Reviewing the tape (wow, TdFblog video), I think it's Vande Velde riding with Julich. On the other hand, a couple of other CSC riders passed by maybe 30 seconds behind Armstrong's group, and could have caught up on the descent. At some point, this became a group of 15, adding Azevedo, Blaudzun, Schleck, Vandborg, Nathan O'Neill, and Justin England (with Vande Velde off the front).

Armstrong rode out in pursuit of Vande Velde, with Azevedo, then Danielson and Leipheimer attacked. This put pressure on Floyd Landis, and allowed Armstrong to ride in his slipstream with a teammate up the road. Danielson and Leipheimer rode much of the last 5 kilometers together, slowly gapping Armstrong and Landis. With Leipheimer placed 10 seconds ahead of Danielson on GC, Discovery's Danielson opened up a gap on Leipheimer in the last kilometer. At the finish, Danielson took the lead, with 5 seconds to spare.

Back with Landis, Armstrong was finally able to get a split at the summit, and finished 10 seconds clear of Landis, and (Dave Aiello notes) pointing defiantly back down the mountain.

At left, the once and future yellow jersey (click through for larger picture).

Stage Top 10:
1) Tom Danielson, Discovery
2) Levi Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner, at :15
3) Lance Armstrong, Discovery, at :59
4) Floyd Landis, Phonak, at 1:09
5) Bobby Julich, Team CSC, at 1:44
6) Marco Pinotti, Prodir-Saunier Duval, at 1:55
7) Trent Lowe, Jittery Joe's-Kalahari, at 2:10
8) Saul Raisin, Credit Agricole, at 2:10
9) Michael Blaudzun, CSC, at 2:33
10) Andy Schleck, CSC, at 2:33

Preliminary Overall Results:
1) Tom Danielson, Discovery
2) Levi Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner, at :05
3) Floyd Landis, Phonak, at :09
4) Bobby Julich, CSC, at 1:10
5) Lance Armstrong, Discovery, at 1:41

Lowe holds on to the white (under-23) jersey, while Rubiera will win the King of the Mountains, since there are no KoM points available tomorrow.

And, of course, barring a comet crashing into his helmet, it looks like Discovery Channel has a stage on which to introduce Tom Danielson, who is going to win the 2005 Tour de Georgia. Looks like I have to create a "Tom Danielson" category.

With all the tough stages out of the way, what have we learned about Lance Armstrong's fitness? Bobby Julich, who clearly targeted his fitness to the early season, lost 43 seconds to the six-timer, which must be encouraging for Armstrong. Was Armstrong going all out on the last climb, or biding his time, helping Danielson gap Landis while Landis marked the wrong Disco? I guess we'll know in July.

Also, Levi Leipheimer, ladies and gentlemen; what a gutty ride -- he was also isolated from any teammates for the entire last climb, and put 45 seconds into Armstrong, and almost a minute into Landis.

On the other hand, I wouldn't want to spend the night with the CSC's. Christian Vande Velde takes the "consolation prize:" most aggressive rider. They had the numbers in the break, but couldn't get up Brasstown Bald with the Discos, Landis, and Leipheimer. As a result, they'll miss out on the team prize, which they took last year, and Julich will finish in the bitterest position -- one step off the podium.

Also:

VeloNews | Danielson wins stage, seizes lead at Georgia

VeloNews wrap-up, with some good Casy Gibson photos.

procycling.com | Armstrong: "Danielson's something special"

ThePaceline.com (free reg. req.) | Stage 5 Race Report

Posted by Frank Steele on April 23, 2005 in Bobby Julich, Christian Vande Velde, Floyd Landis, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Saul Raisin, Tom Danielson, Top Stories, Viatcheslav Ekimov | Permalink

Comments

According to Levi, via cyclingnews, Julich had his chain skipping all over the place on the climbs, which probably explains the wierd bike switches he and Schleck were making. What a shame. I would have loved to have seen him in the mix. I am waiting to hear more about that.

Posted by: gttim at Apr 24, 2005 7:58:11 AM

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