Reported by Mark Zalewski and Eddie Monnier
The first stage of the Dodge Tour de Georgia finished in a bunch sprint in Macon, after a long breakaway by TIAA-CREF's Dan Bowman was swallowed up in the final 40 km and all the late attacks were nullified by the sprinters' teams. The stage was won by Phonak's Robert Hunter, who outsprinted Ben Brooks (Jelly Belly) and Michele Maccanti (LPR). The race continues today with a 197.5 km stage between Fayetteville and Rome.
René Savary (Phonak director)
"The fantastic work of the whole team has paid off once again. Because it wasn't easy to keep track of what was happening in the final phase of the stage, peppered with many changes of direction and three additional rounds and short climbs."
"The Tour of Georgia is no piece of cake. We will naturally try to defend Robbie's leader's jersey, but not at all costs."
Scott Sunderland (CSC director)
"The team did a good job today. This first stage was a nice run in for the boys, the average speed was actually quite low. It was a hot day and I'm happy to see that the guys seem to have recovered well from the jet-lag. On the final laps they were able to test their legs a bit. The first time over the climb Lars Bak went, the second time we had Michael Blaudzun in an break, the third time Andy Schleck attacked with Danny Pate (Jelly Belly).
"Unfortunately for Andy, there was a misunderstanding about the distance to the finish. I knew we had three laps to go after crossing the finish line the first time, but then the radio tour from the chief commissaires' car said "two kilometres to go" (instead of five); so I passed that information to Andy. It's better to be safe than sorry - so Andy got ready for the sprint. By the time the correction came through it was too late. Bummer. The peloton then came together and sprinted for the victory. All in all it was a fine day racing. We're looking forward to the next stages."
Mark McCormack (Colavita Olive Oil/Sutter Home, 119th at 7'38)
"It was slow then fast, and then faster...We were probably going about 20 km/h at times. With one solo rider off the front, everyone was pretty relaxed. And then when [Fanelli and Pinotti] went, Todd Herriott and Davide Frattini (both Colavita Olive Oil/Sutter Home), two Health Net and two Phonak riders went to the front and did a fantastic chase. At that point, we were thinking we could help JJ [Haedo, their team sprinter[. He's been riding so well. Actually, we've all been riding well.
"For some reason, the train derailed. Unfortunately, we weren't able to capitalize on the hard work that those six guys were doing on the front. Obviously, we're all a little disappointed because this is one of the stages we thought suited us well. We rode well as a group, came to the front entering the [final] circuit, but now that work seems wasteful. It's a bonding experience, and we'll all grow from it....We've had a tough day. We'll have another crack tomorrow."
When asked whether or not they had any GC aspirations McCormack said, "Knowing the difficulty of Brasstown Bald and looking at the international caliber of the roster here, to be in the Top-10 with one our riders would be stretch. We've come here with the intent of winning one of the sprint style stages."
Floyd Landis (Phonak)
"I feel good, so we'll have to see if I can be the leader (laughing)." When asked is he had ridden Brasstown Bald, he responded, "I've heard stories. I'll think we'll be going slow enough to see it."
Andrea Tafi (Saunier Duval - Prodir)
When asked his goal for the race, Tafi said, "I want to win one stage to finish my career."
Caesar Grajales (Navigators)
"I had some problems getting a European visa, so I've been without any races since Malaysia, since Tour de Langkawi. This will be only my second race with the team. I don't know if I'm in good shape or not, but I've trained very hard."
When asked if his goal was to repeat his win on Brasstown Bald, he replied, "Yeah, that's what I want to try. But last year I knew I was riding well because of Redlands and because I did some NORBA races also, But now, I don't know. I would like to do the same, or something better on GC, but I'm not sure."
Trent Lowe (Jittery Joe's / Kalahari)
"Basically, I need to rest, do as little as possible until the mountains. The guys are aware of that, and maybe of my bit of inexperience, and so they'll try to keep me out of trouble. And then see what we have. I've just come off Sea Otter, so we're going to be a little bit tired coming into it, we've already done a lot of racing this year. We'll give it a crack come the time-trial, that's when the race really kicks off for the GC guys."
This is the biggest UCI race he's ever done, but Lowe was not nervous: "I really enjoy it. The nerves will probably come later in the week, when it matters more for us, when it's my time to have a crack at doing things."
Asked if he had previewed the Brasstown Bald climb, he replied, "Yeah, we had our team camp about six weeks ago and trained up Brasstown and it was snowing at the time, so we've seen it in pretty awful conditions. I think it'll be a bit nicer, hopefully anyway."
Chris Wherry (Health Net presented by Maxxis)
"We've got three of the fastest guys here. This is my chance to pay the guys back for the work they've done for me. I've got to be realistic about my chances on a climb like Brasstown Bald against Lance, Levi, Floyd, Azevedo....On my very best day, sure maybe. But I'm a little tired."