By Kirsten Robbins in Braselton, Georgia
Solidifying a victory in the Tour de Georgia stage four's team time trial also placed four of Slipstream's potential overall race leaders into promising positions on the general classification heading into the hills. All four riders are tied to third place on GC, 15 seconds adrift of race leader Greg Henderson (High Road). Furthermore, while stage five's Dahlonega finish has typically shown an epic outcome, the race is just two stages away from Brasstown Bald's five-kilometre GC decider. According to Slipstream director, Jonathan Vaughters, his riders are in a good tactical position being four seconds ahead of the race favourite from Astana, Levi Leipheimer.
"We were really hoping for a stage win today and then we will see how Trent Lowe and Tom Danielson do on Brasstown Bald," Vaughters told Cyclingnews regarding his potential GC options. "I don't know whether they can go as fast as Levi or not, but to win the stage was a really big honour and our guys rode really well today."
According to the 2005 Tour de Georgia winner, Tom Danielson, Slipstream riders are in a good position to play their tactical cards in pursuit of the race lead. "The four of us that rode in first on the time trial are capable of being in a tactical contention, not just on Brasstown Bald but in stage five, too," said Danielson, who would like to use the Tour de Georgia to make a comeback into cycling after a difficult off season.
"When we were racing well in 2005-2006 with the Discovery Channel team, we did such a great job of making that team work all day in Dahlonega. Tomorrow, any one of our four top guys, and even the guys who came in not too far behind in the team time trial, can go up the road because it would be a threat. All our riders are in great condition and we have a lot of cards to play now."
It is fair to say that the expected team to beat was Astana; but according to Danielson the argyle clad team used their depth to reiterate why they are achieving so much early success. "The race went awesome for us," said Danielson after the team time trial. "Having guys like Zabriskie and Vandevelde who were so experienced coming from a team like CSC which truly dominated the sport has been a big factor in our success. Obviously we have a very strong team here. Having guys who can race strong and laugh the whole time is amazing."
Slipstream will have a strong contingency of cards to throw down to inch closer to the overall lead. With the likes of climbers Trent Lowe and Tom Danielson, Astana's Levi Leipheimer believes it would take a lot of race experience to match his seasoned GC expertise. "I didn't see Slipstreams race, but they beat us, and I think it proves that they did their homework. They went fast today, so that's all I can say," commented Leipheimer after the stage. "Trent is a good rider, too, but cycling is a long process and you have to take it step by step. For him to really challenge would be a big step."
Potential team leader from Slipstream, Trent Lowe emphasized Brasstown Bald's five kilometre drag race-style ascent to the finish line, alluding to a case of whom ever has the best legs on that day will win the overall. "We can probably feed off each other a bit," said Lowe regarding his three teammates who are tied for third on GC after the team time trial. "We have a pretty good team here but Levi is going to be tough to beat, and Chris Horner is looking pretty fit as well."