Organisers of America's premier stage race have confirmed the 16 teams that will participate in this year's Dodge Tour de Georgia, scheduled for April 19-24, 2005. Six ProTour teams, two Professional Continental teams and eight Continental teams comprise the 128 rider line-up that boasts a truly international field, with cyclists from 18 different countries.
"The caliber of teams, matched with Georgia's beautiful yet challenging terrain ensures the 2005 Dodge Tour de Georgia will be the best yet," said Stan Holm, executive director of the race.
"While we're an invitation only event, we had teams from around the world reaching out to us, looking to make their mark in front of an American audience. And, as many are predicting, this just might be the last time fans can see Lance race here in the U.S."
In defending his title, Lance Armstrong's Discovery Channel team will face formidable opposition from the five other ProTour teams that include Credit Agricole, Team CSC, Saunier Duval-Prodir, Phonak and Gerolsteiner, the most recent ProTeam addition to this year's race, where Levi Leipheimer will lead the charge for his team.
"We are looking forward to returning to the Tour de Georgia and will be racing to defend last year's title," said Armstrong. "The field of competition is very deep and the course is tougher than last year."
The highly-competitive Professional Continental classification will be represented by the Navigators Insurance Pro Cycling Team, one of America's oldest and most active pro cycling teams, who will be joined by Swiss-registered outfit, Team LPR.
On the domestic side, the Continental classification will be represented by: Jelly Belly-Pool Gel, Kodak EasyShare Gallery/Sierra Nevada, Jittery Joes-Kalahari, Canada's Team Symmetrics, Health Net-Maxxis, Colavita-Sutter Home, and two developmental teams, TIAA-CREF and USA Cycling's Stars & Stripes.
Said Australia's Ben Brooks of team Jelly Belly: "Being a Continental Team, we don't get to race against the ProTour level teams very often. We're ready to test our mettle against many of the world's best cyclists and show the ProTour teams just how strong and fast American racing is right now. As a team, we finished well in 2004 and we're always in the thick of it. However, this year we will be giving the overall classification a serious go while playing a major role at each sprint line and King of the Mountain competition."
Last year's sprint classification winner, Health Net-Maxxis rider Gord Fraser, anticipates a battle from start to finish. "The course is tough, the flats will be fast and the climbing will be difficult. Considering we'll be racing alongside many of the world's best cyclists, it's exciting and motivating to be racing in the 2005 Dodge Tour de Georgia."
The final roster of the 128 athletes participating in the 2005 Dodge Tour de Georgia will be confirmed shortly before the race, with each of the 16 teams designating their eight-man line-ups once several early season races conclude.