Posted by Editoress on 04/23/05
Dodge Tour de Georgia
Report by Health Net Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis
Henderson extends points lead on difficult day.
If the conditions during yesterday's individual time trial at the Dodge Tour de Georgia seemed sketchy, then the weather today had to be considered outright hazardous. Riders were bombarded with a succession of rain, hail and lightening over the 215 Km Stage 4. Brian Vandborg (CSC) survived the mayhem to win the slightly uphill sprint finish and take the stage.
The Health Net Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis achieved its main objective on the day: to extend Kiwi sprinter Greg Henderson's lead in the points competition. At the first sprint of the day, Henderson came second to J.J. Haedo (Colavita-Sutter Home). The three points helped Henderson increase his lead over Stage 1 winner Robbie Hunter (Phonak), who finished third in the opening sprint, to 23-16.
Henderson never had the chance to contest the second sprint, as Jose Luis "Chechu" Rubiera (Discovery) had already gone up the road on what would be the main break of the day. Rubiera, who easily earned the most aggressive rider of the day Ã‹â€ along with placing first in all five KoM sprints Ã‹â€ attacked on the first climb of the day, just 25 Km into the stage, taking three other riders with him. Rubiera held out until he had cleared the final climb up Woody Gap 195 Km into the stage. By then, the front of the race had been whittled down to 26 riders, a group that included both Justin England and Scott Moninger of Health Net Presented by Maxxis.
Discovery was aggressive all day, leaving the chase to Phonak, who were trying to keep Rubiera close in an effort to protect their leader and yellow jersey wearer, Floyd Landis. And once Rubiera was caught, they launched several attacks to try and isolate Landis, who by the end of the last climb was without the protection of any teammates.
"Between the weather and the pace, it was a very difficult day," said Scott Moninger, who is recovering from the same bug that afflicted Gord Fraser and John Lieswyn at the Redlands Classic a few weeks ago.
The day took its toll. Between the twin punch of the awful weather and the difficulty of a stage that passed over five rated climbs, the field has been reduced to only 90 riders heading into the even more difficult ride up to Brasstown Bald on Saturday.
Moninger expects even more fireworks out of the stage this year than last, when Lance Armstrong was firmly in control. "The field is much deeper this year with all the Pro Tour teams in it," Moninger said. "There are a lot of good climbers who want to have a good showing. Danielson is looking good. Julich is strong. It could be more aggressive this year. But if the weather is bad again tomorrow, it could also be pretty cold going up there. Hopefully it will stay dry."
With only one intermediate sprint to contest, well into the stage at mile 38, Moninger said the team won't worry about bringing back a break to win it. "But if it's still there for the taking, then we'll try to get Hendy a few more points," Moninger said.
Moninger would like to see he and England arrive at the base of the final climb with the lead group. From there, he said, it may just be a matter or survival.
The good showing by Moninger and England helped Health Net Presented by Maxxis move up in the overall team classification to fourth place, behind Pro Tour teams Discovery, CSC and Prodir-Saunier Duval.
Ivan Dominguez succumbed to the conditions, becoming one of 14 riders who didn't finish today's stage. In addition, 13 riders finished outside the time cut, while two others Ã‹â€ J.J. Haedo and Mark McCormick of Colavita-Sutter Home Ã‹â€ were disqualified for excessive motopacing behind the team car.
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