From the imposing bluffs overlooking the Savannah River to high atop Brasstown Bald to the rolling hills of Georgia's historic townships, the stage has been officially set for North America's Dodge Tour de Georgia, which has been sanctioned by the UCI as a 2.1 event on the America Continental Tour. At a press conference held today in downtown Atlanta, race officials unveiled the Tour's official race route and 10 host cities.
The race will commence on Tuesday, April 19 in the Garden City of the South, Augusta, and finish five days and 650 miles later on Sunday, April 24 in Alpharetta. The 2005 edition will include an individual time trial, 10 intermediate sprints, 10 king of the mountain (KOM) sprints and one mountain top finish. 15 teams of eight riders each will be invited to compete in the race. Last year's edition was won by Lance Armstrong, who edged out CSC's Jens Voigt of Germany and American Chris Horner of Webcor by just over a minute.
"The Dodge Tour de Georgia is a one-of-a-kind rolling festival as well as a world class racing event, and the tour will feature a multitude of activities for spectators in wonderful communities that exude genuine Americana, the enterprising spirit of the New South and Georgia's world famous hospitality," said the race's executive director Stan Holm.
The first stage starts in downtown Augusta, along the banks of the Savannah River and take the riders 136 miles (217 km) across Middle Georgia to its finishing circuit in Macon. It will be an ideal day for the sprinters, who will race to the city that musical legends Otis Redding, the Allman Brothers, James Brown and Little Richard have all called home.
Stage 2 will test the sprinters once again, as the race continues along its clockwise course in Fayetteville. Turning northwest for a 129 mile (206 km) battle, riders will encounter a challenging mix of Georgia's diverse terrain along the way to the finish line in Rome, nestled on a peninsula between the Etowah, Oostanaula, and Coosa rivers.
Stage 3 in Rome is a testing 18 mile (29 km) individual time trial that will shake out the general classification. Stage 4, the first of two mountain stages, begins in Dalton in the Appalachian Mountains, and the riders steadily climb up toward the North Georgia Mountains in the east. After five mountain passes including the famous Three Gaps, the stage will finish 134 miles (213 km) later in the gold rush mountain village of Dahlonega,
Stage 5 on April 23 will be the queen stage, starting in Gainseville on the shores of Lake Lanier and the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and heading north, deeper into the mountains to the finish high atop Brasstown Bald (Towns Co.). This 114 mile (182 km) stage will separate the peloton after a tough day in the saddle and four mountain passes, including Unicoi Gap and Hogpen Gap and culminating in the climb of Brasstown Bald Mountain. While a short climb of only 3.5 miles (6 km), the pitch changes of up to 21 percent and switchbacks will ensure an exciting finish atop Georgia's highest peak.
After 530 miles of racing, the sixth and final stage begins along the northeast border of Georgia in Blairsville (pop. 700). From here, the riders head south into Metro Atlanta for a tough finishing circuit finale in Alpharetta.
The Dodge Tour de Georgia's official beneficiary is the Georgia Cancer Coalition (GCC), and the race proactively promotes a healthy lifestyle at its Healthy Georgia Expo.
Stage 1 - April 19: Augusta - Macon, 136 miles/217.6 km
Stage 2 - April 20: Fayetteville - Rome, 129 miles/206.4 km
Stage 3 - April 21: Rome ITT, 18 miles/28.8 km
Stage 4 - April 22: Dalton - Dahlonega, 134 miles/213.4 km
Stage 5 - April 23: Gainesville - Brasstown Bald Mountain (Towns Co.), 114 miles/182.4 km
Stage 6 - April 24: Blairsville - Alpharetta, 115 miles/184 km
More information: www.dodgetourdegeorgia.com