By Laura Weislo
Overshadowed somewhat by the announcement of the Vuelta a España, the organisers of the Tour de Georgia unveiled a new and interesting route for the 2008 edition on Wednesday, one which will bring the US its first team time trial in a stage race of this caliber since the 1980s, replacing the usual individual time trial. The race will feature five new host cities including the Braseltown race track "Road Atlanta" which will host the team time trial.
The 2008 edition of the Tour de Georgia will begin offshore on Tybee Island, and then travel inland to the historic city of Savannah. Stage two will begin further inland in Statesboro and head northwest to Augusta, famous for hosting the Masters PGA tournament. Stage three will begin in Washington and head north of Atlanta to Gainesville, where the riders will prepare for the next day's team time trial in nearby Braselton.
The team time trial will take place on the Road Atlanta grand prix circuit, but race director Jim Birell of Medalist Sports said the team time trial's distance is still undetermined. The 2.54 mile grand prix circuit is rather hilly, and Birell hinted that they will have to take several factors into account in order to balance the stage with the rest of the Tour.
Slipstream's Will Frischkorn was on hand to comment on the course, and was excited about the inclusion of the team time trial, which he feels will favour his squad. "It should add an interesting dynamic to the race that should change things up a bit," said the winner of the Most Aggressive rider award of the 2007 edition.
Stage five heads to the hills, beginning in the college town of Suwanee and heading to Dahlonega, where the riders will have their first taste of the mountains before heading into the Queen stage the next day to Brasstown Bald. The 4,784 foot mountain has been a decisive factor in the race since Cesar Grajales won the first finish there in 2004. Grajales, who attended the press conference, will return in 2008 with the Rock Racing team.
2007 winner Janez Brajkovic hopes to return with his new Astana squad to defend his title. "The Tour de Georgia is a race I love because of the amazing fans and how well it fits in with my racing schedule. Being the best young rider in 2006 was great, but winning the whole race in 2007 was the highlight of my racing career. I am always asking my directors to do more races in the U.S. and I plan to be back again in April," said Brajkovic.
The 2007 Tour de Georgia was held after a last minute scramble for sponsorship dollars, with the state of Georgia stepping in to help fund the economically important event along with corporate sponsors. The organisers have not announced a new title sponsor, but Georgia Lieutenant governor Casey Cagel was on hand to ensure the state's continued support.
"We're in a much better situation than we were last year," said Birrell. "There's so much more stability in the future of this event. And the success of the last five years has really cemented the lieutenant governor's passion and support for making this thing bigger and better than it has been in the past."