By Kirsten Robbins in Dahlonega, Georgia
Health Net presented by Maxxis has consistently landed two riders on the podium and wearing two distinct leader jerseys at the first four stages of the Tour de Georgia. The jersey collection started in stage two when Frank Pipp captured the preliminary KOM sprint, holding onto the jersey until stage five where the next set of points next became available.
Pipp's pre-climbing KOM jersey was coupled with his teammate from Australia Rory Sutherland who earned himself the most aggressive rider jersey when he attacked the field on the stage three finishing circuits pursuing a solo victory.
"We can't just have one guy on the podium we gotta to have two," said stage five's most aggressive rider Tim Johnson during the post race press conference. "I attacked at the bottom of the hill after being out front all day just because it was crunch time and I wanted to go for the win."
Team captain Rory Sutherland partially attributes his domestique team's Tour de Georgia podium appearances to the camaraderie of the riders off the bike. "A lot of things with cycling fall onto luck and confidence," said Sutherland who placed second on stage five. "We've got aspirations and they are realistic with what we want to get out of this race. One thing that I will say about our team specifically is that we've got a really good group of guys who are friends that happen to race bikes together. I think that makes up for a big part of our successes."
Sutherland reiterated how difficult it is for any rider, domestic or ProTour, to be involved in a lengthy breakaway where there are constant attacks before the successful separation finally occurs. "You need the luck to get into the moves, like Tim did, where the last few days it took 60 or so many kilometers to get it started. There was a lot of attacking to get one up the road, 40 or 50 kilometers an hour," said Sutherland. "The fact that we were able to get our team up the road and up on top of the podium everyday, showing that we can mix it up with the ProTour guys, is obviously really important for us and for domestic cycling in the USA."
(Additional reporting and research provided by Susan Westemeyer)