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Team time trial adding twist to Georgia

Dave Zabriskie is the US time trial champion and hoping to continue with Slipstream as he did with CSC, here seen as they won the Eindhoven time trial

Dave Zabriskie is the US time trial champion and hoping to continue with Slipstream as he did with CSC, here seen as they won the Eindhoven time trial (Image credit: Luc Claessen)

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Savannah, Georgia

The opening press conference for the 2008 Tour de Georgia had the usual pomp and circumstance, with the local dignitaries and officials talking about their communities – and an assortment of top riders faced with the usual questions, such as 'Is racing here in Georgia like racing in Europe?' But the biggest difference to this year's race, the replacement of the individual time trial with a team time trial, brought out some different responses, showing that most of the riders are looking to stage four as a pivotal point in the race.

"The team time trial is going to be a great change of pace," said Tour of California champion Levi Leipheimer (Astana). "It's definitely something we've needed in U.S. racing for a while."

Compatriot George Hincapie also pitched in. "The team time trial will definitely be one of the prettiest stages to watch, with the venue," said the High Road rider about racing on the auto racing course Road Atlanta. "It's a really technical course and a lot of stress for the riders, but it will be good for the fans to watch."

Health Net-Maxxis' GC rider Rory Sutherland said that the TTT might be a chance for the domestic teams to run with the big boys from across the pond. "It will be interesting to see what happens and maybe an opportunity for the domestic squads to go head-to-head with the ProTour teams." He also said that it will be fun to suffer along with his team-mates. "I typically only do time trials OK, and I'm in the same boat as everyone else, since nobody actually likes them!"

One team that could benefit from the TTT format is Slipstream-Chipotle, with time trial specialists Dave Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde, last year's runner-up and recent winner of the time trial at Circuit Cycliste Sarthe. Vande Velde stated that "We have a lot of good cards to play with Tom, Trent, Dave and myself – but first and foremost we have to do a good team time trial to put ourselves in good position. We do like our chances for the team time trial, but it's going to be a different animal because we have to ride road bikes as opposed to time trial bikes. And it's relatively short, so it will be interesting to see what the results are. I'm not sure who is going to do well, but I think there will be some surprises."

Leipheimer mentioned about the TTT that "It's difficult to say now before we've done it. Looking at the [whole] race now, on paper, it looks easier than in the past. I don't think they have chosen the terrain they could have and the Brasstown stage looks kind of short. But that is just looking ahead before we get there, and at the finish it might look like something else."

When asked if anyone has scouted the team time trial course at Road Atlanta, Vande Velde offered his team's secret training weapon. "[I've seen it] on PlayStation. We have one on our bus and we've been practicing every morning before our rides!"

Tune into Cyclingnews every day this week for live, up-to-the-minute coverage of the Tour de Georgia.

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