The riders in the Dodge Tour de Georgia experienced a very tough fourth stage between Dalton and Dahlonega, raced of 214.7 km of very lumpy terrain in bad weather, at times. The break of the day was established on the climb of Fort Mountain after approximately 35 km, when Jose Luis Rubiera (Discovery) attacked and took Andy Schleck (CSC), Marco Pinotti (Saunier Duval), Matthias Russ and Sven Krauss (Gerolsteiner) and Elia Aggiano (LPR) with him. As the thunderstorms rolled in and pummeled the riders, the group rode out to a 2'50 lead, with Phonak controlling the chase behind.
Rubiera attacked on Woody Gap with 90 km to go to reduce the group to himself, Schleck and Krauss. The Discovery rider was doing all the work, and left the others on Wolfpen Gap with 38 km to go. But the peloton, driven by CSC, closed it down on the final descent of Woody Gap with less than 20 km to go and the race began anew. The flurry of attacks in the finale resulted in Brian Vandborg (CSC), and Marco Pinotti (Saunier) getting away with 2 km to go, joined by Viatcheslav Ekimov (Discovery) in the final kilometre. But Ekimov didn't have enough to beat Vandborg in the sprint, and settled for second behind the young Dane, with Pinotti third. After being isolated in the finale, Landis finished eighth and kept the leader's jersey.
Brian Vandborg (CSC)
I was suffering quite a bit, actually... I think [Ekimov] was close to dropping me. [Landis leans over to Vandborg and says, "Don't tell him that."] ... In the final corner, we were pretty much side-by-side and luckily I succeeded."
"We were focusing a lot on Discovery. We tried to cover the breaks whenever they went. We were trying to be aggressive, but still a little bit defensive because we are still in front of the Discovery team with our two guys."
Floyd Landis (Phonak, 1st GC)
"We expected [the pressure from Discovery],. Their strength is the number of guys they have. I imagine tomorrow will be the same thing. I hope Chechu is tired now [everyone laughs, including Chechu]. But maybe he learned his lesson. When he caught me, he said, 'Hey, Floyd, I think I went too early.' [more laughter]...The first hour was controlled more by [Health Net] and we didn't have to do so much. It was too much for our team to control the whole race, so we had to take a little bit of a gamble. Obviously, if Chechu had won the race, he might be the nicest guy here, so I wouldn't feel bad about that. [turning to Ekimov] Sorry, Eki."
Viatcheslav Ekimov (Discovery Channel, 2nd)
"The main objective of the team is to win the Tour de France. The Tour of Georgia is very important race for us and for our sponsor. But the team cannot specially prepare for that race...It's the middle of April and summer is a little while away. Those guys are always good in the summer [for the Tour de France]. Myself I just came back from the Classics. I need a break. I gave it up, all, in the Tour of Flanders and Roubaix so I'm still paying the price for that. But I think in general the team is looking good...and we still can play tactics and we're still making the pace in the race.
"The group was small...I planned to escape in the last K and so I did. There were still three guys up the road, maybe a hundred meters from our small group. I came across. Jason McCartney gave me good speed to the bottom of the last kilometre. Then I did the sprint the first 500 meters, trying to drop Brian [Vandborg], but it didn't work. I knew this guy was fast in the sprint. My race was done with 500 meters to go [because I hadn't dropped him]."
Chechu Rubiera (Discovery Channel, 23rd)
"During the whole season, I've been riding quite well. But today, even when I didn't win, when I was just sitting in the group at the finish line, I felt really, really well. The whole day I was in the breakaway, most of the time pulling by myself. I'm really confident in a couple of months I can be a little stronger and can do a good Tour [de France]. So I'm really happy.
"I agree with Eki. This race is a little bit more with the heart than the legs because we are not ready yet, 100 percent, I would say. Also, I would say it is true, even if I were at my highest level yesterday, I would be far from Floyd because he is a really good time-trialist and yesterday [Stage 3] he did something amazing. In my opinion, I could be a little closer on the GC, but not able to win. [Floyd follows the comment with: 'I told you he was the nicest guy.']
Greg Henderson (Health Net presented by Maxxis, 1st sprints GC)
"It was a long day...We started that climb [Fort Mountain] straight after doing the sprint, so I hit the bottom of the first climb pretty much in oxygen debt, ahh, I'm just struggling through as much as I can....My race on the track is 40 minutes! But the legs will come. I should be on good from after this race."
Trent Lowe (Jittery Joe's / Kalahari, Best Young Rider)
"It's amazing, really. What a novelty. I didn't really expect this at all. I didn't come here with any expectations other than to learn and gain something from the race. So, it's really cool to be here today and yesterday and have the jersey.
"Towards the end of the race, just for me, it was a matter of covering Saul Raisin and any attacks he made. He did have a few digs. There were a couple of times when I could see it was going to be brought back because [Saunier Duval-] Prodir were on the front really pushing the pace, so it I wasn't really so worried then. But then he had a few more attacks coming into town and I just had to mark those moves. Then it was just a matter of staying on the group. I was just waiting for the kilometres to go down. It was a pretty awful day out there. I was pretty over it by the end. It was definitely the longest stage I've ever raced. Typically, I've had really good form on the mountain bike, but a mountain bike races lasts only two or two and a half hours at most. To come out here for nearly six, it's a lot different "