Fast Facts: Where: Various
When: Third week in April
What: Staged bicycle race throughout Georgia
From imposing bluffs overlooking the mighty Savannah River to majestic Brasstown Bald the Tour de Georgia winds its way across the rolling hills of Georgia’s historic townships into the North Georgia Mountains. North America’s premier professional cycling event is also a rolling festival of community activities.
Executive director of the Dodge Tour de Georgia Stan Holm told About North Georgia, “Our host cities and the race route we have chosen ensure that the 2005 Dodge Tour de Georgia will once more stand as the ultimate test of endurance and might on U.S. soil. The race will pit 120 riders from 15 national and international teams against both each other and the Tour’s dramatic, often unforgiving landscape.”
The 6 stages of the Tour de Georgia
Beginning in Augusta, Georgia and finishing five days and 650 miles later in Alpharetta, Georgia, the 2005 Dodge Tour de Georgia will include an Individual Time Trial, 10 fast sprint lines, 10 grueling King of the Mountain (KOM) climbing competitions and a mountain top finish. The tour has quickly become a major Spring event, attracting hundreds of thousands fans throughout the route. Spectators tend to migrate to the larger cities, at the start and end of the race and for the time trials, this year held in Rome, Georgia on Thursday.
The 2004 edition attracted the top echelon of professional cyclists, including world champions like Italian Mario Cipollini, Olympic medallists such as American Bobby Julich and Lance Armstrong, six-time Tour de France winner. Armstrong put a decisive claim on the 2004 winner’s jersey by edging out CSC’s Jens Voigt of Germany and American Chris Horner of Webcor by just over a minute.
The 2005 Dodge Tour de Georgia begins on Tuesday, April 19, in historic downtown Augusta, challenging cyclists as they traverse 120 miles of rolling hills to Macon.
Stage Two begins in Fayetteville, heading northwest for 120 miles to Rome. Stage Three, on Thurs. April 21 in Rome is a difficult 18-mile Individual Time Trial. The first of two mountain stages, Stage Four, begins in Dalton, in the foothills of Georgia's Blue Ridge Mountains. Riders begin a steady climb toward the ominous Fort Mountain lurking to the east, before finishing 130 miles later in the Georgia Gold Rush town of Dahlonega.
The most popular stages come on Saturday and Sunday. Stage Five, on Saturday, April 23, 2005, is one of the toughest days in North American stage racing. Cyclists climb from Lake Lanier into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The race culminates with a Brasstown Bald finish. Voted the best day of racing in 2004 by VeloNews Magazine, this 115-mile stage passes through both Unicoi Gap and Hogpen Gap. The 3.5 mile road to Brasstown Bald has intense pitch changes and wicked switchbacks ensuring an exhilarating finish at the top of Georgia’s highest peak. After 530 miles of racing, the sixth and final stage begins in Blairsville, Georgia. From there the race heads south to a finishing circuit finale in Alpharetta.
Unfortunately, since Saturday and Sunday are so popular it is next to impossible to find a good viewing position. So here is our recommendation: Take Friday off, and head for Dalton, Georgia Thursday night.
At the start of the race in downtown, the cyclists will begin with a "neutral start" at 10:00 a.m. at the intersection of Hamilton and King, loop once to the actual start at then "head for the hills," namely, Fort Mountain east of Chatsworth, Georgia. Last year we tried to beat the racers from Dalton to Chatsworth, barely making it there in time to set up and take a picture. Instead, head for Ellijay along U. S. 76 and get in position on North Ave. Once the racers come through, head for Woody Lake in Suches. If you know the area, then you know the back way (perhaps even hiking to Woody Gap along the Appalachian Trail). The cyclists will pass by twice, each time competing in a "King of the Mountain" competition.
Stage 1: Tuesday, April 19, 2005 – Augusta to Macon, a 128.9mile/207.4 km stage race
A relatively flat stage, look for one of the world’s top sprinters to be a favorite.
Stage 2: Wednesday, April 20, 2005 – Fayetteville to Rome, a 122.7 mile/197.5 km stage race
Stage Note: The sprint line in Rockmart highlights The Silver Comet multi-use trail.
Stage 3: Thursday, April 21, 2005 –Rome, a 18.6 mile/29.9 km Individual Time Trial
Stage Note: The hilly course features the steep Mt. Alto, and it will be a major factor in deciding the race. Armstrong set an unbeatable pace in 2004.
Stage 4: Friday, April 22, 2005 – Dalton to Dahlonega, a 133.4 mile/214.7km stage race
Stage Note: With five KOMs, a breakaway is possible. Jason McCartney’s stage win in 2004 was named the VeloNews “Ride of the Year”.
Stage 5: Saturday, April 23, 2005 – Gainesville to Brasstown Bald Mountain, a 113.4
mile/182.4km stage race with a mountaintop finish
Stage Note: This year’s stage will be even more difficult, with four KOMs, the last three of which come one after another.
Stage 6: Sunday, April 24, 2005 – Blairsville/Union County, Georgia to Alpharetta, a 125.2 mile/201.5 km stage/finishing circuit race
Stage Note: We tried to get near the finish last year, but the only event we saw clearly was Sheryl Crow's arrival. Get here very early for any chance at a good viewing position, or try to see the race earlier. Blairsville has some motels, but they will fill up quickly.