Brasstown Bald looms Saturday for Tour de Georgia
In spite of what appears to be an Australian invasion controlling the Tour de Georgia after Friday's stage, the US favorites have climbed in the standings for a battle on Brasstown Bald on Saturday.
Aussie Richard England, right, riding for the Bissell cycling team, challenged and beat countryman Rory Sutherland (HealthNet) in a sprint to the Stage 5 finish line in Dahlonega on Friday.
Meanwhile, Slipstream's Trent Lowe, also from Australia, donned the yellow jersey although he's in a tie with two teammates. Lowe finished first in Slipstream's winning team time trial on Thursday, so he gets the honor of wearing the yellow.
US riders poised
But right below Lowe in the overall standings, you can see a half dozen or more US cyclists with designs on an overall win at the Tour de Georgia all within 20 seconds of the lead.
First come Slipstream teammates David Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde in 2nd and 3rd with the same time as Lowe. Four seconds behind is Astana's Levi Leipheimer, who won on Brasstown Bald last year. Teammate Chris Horner, a former Tour de Georgia winner, shares Leipheimer's time at 4 seconds back.
Another former Tour de Georgia winner, Tom Danielson of Slipstream, sits in 13th place just 17 seconds behind the leader. He essentially owns Brasstown, having won there in 2005 and 2006, and finishing second to Leipheimer in 2007.
That's a lot of firepower ready to explode Saturday on Brasstown Bald (profile, .pdf), which will undoubtedly be the decisive stage of the Tour, which ends Sunday with criterium in Atlanta.
VeloNews suggests the outcome will be measured in “power-to-weight” ratio. Technically, that might be correct, but I think the winner who can dig down the deepest will win. That might be mostly power-to-weight, but it also might me heart too.
The mountain, Georgia's highest at 4,784 feet, comes at the finish of an 88-mile day of racing that starts at 11 a.m. in Blairsville. The Brasstown Bald climb is 3.1 miles, although the steepest gradients — up to 25% — come at the end of the climb.
The route will be packed with cycling fans; it's definitely the best place to see the race.
On Friday, England essentially won by hanging with the peloton through the climbs, especially the one near the finish, then sprinting at the finish. That's no small feat, considering the race covered 133 miles from Suwanee to Dahlonega.
The breakaway of the day went to four riders — Cameron Evans (Symmetrics), Edward King (Bissell), Tim Johnson (Health Net), and Valery Kobzarenko (Team Type 1) — stayed out front for nearly 100 miles, only to be reeled back in on the final climb.
Although he lost the yellow jersey, Greg Henderson of High Road owns the points jersey; Edward King (Bissell) will wear King of the Mountain; and Lowe leads the young rider's competition.
The Top 10 overall:
1 Trent Lowe (Aus) Slipstream Chipotle
2 David Zabriskie (USA) Slipstream Chipotle, same time
3 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Slipstream Chipotle, same time
4 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana, 4 seconds
5 Chris Horner (USA) Astana, same time
6 Antonio Colom Mas (Spa) Astana, same time
7 George Hincapie (USA) Team High Road, 6 seconds
8 Kanstantin Siutsou (Blr) Team High Road, same time
9 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC, 13 seconds
10 Iñigo Cuesta Lopez De Castro (Spa) Team CSC, same time