Canadian Cyclist


April 22/05 8:44 am - Dodge Tour de Georgia: Canadian Rider Interviews, updates on Mark Walters and Michael Barry

Posted by Editoress on 04/22/05

Amy Smolens reports from Dodge Tour de Georgia

Neither rain nor snow nor thunderstorms and hail will keep the pro cyclist from his appointed rounds in the Dodge Tour de Georgia. Today's appointed rounds in Stage 4 were 133.4 miles from Dalton to Dahlonega, with three Category 2 climbs and a pair of Category 3's over 140 miles, for a total of 18,953 feet of elevation gain... all that in severe thunderstorms, hail and winds. Sounds like a challenge - even for the men of Team Symmetrics, who held their training camp in Vancouver in January, where avoiding hypothermia was as important as putting in base miles! Let's hear from the hardy souls:

I spoke to Jacob Erker (42nd @ 13:04 behind stage winner Brian Vandborg) as he was pounding down an energy bar after his long day in the saddle:

"These were the worst conditions I've ever raced in for sure. I've ridden in rain like this in the Tour of Guadaloupe, but it's tropical and hot, but this was cold. Will Routley brought me a jacket maybe after we'd been in that for 50k or so and that really saved me coz I was just a block of ice. We got hailed on, I thought that might be hail. I had to ask Eric (Wohlberg) if I was bleeding."

That's what your training camp was for, right?
"Yeah, that's why we do it up there! For the Tour de Georgia, I guess! Same thing!"

What happened in the race?
"After that first climb, just seeing how fast Phonak could do tempo I knew there was probably no hope (to get into a break.) Just hang on as long as you can and get in a group and ride it in, so I think a CSC guy attacked on the second last climb and Phonak just upped the tempo and just blew everything apart."

And now you have Brasstown Bald to look forward to tomorrow.
"I can't even believe we have to ride tomorrow. "

What did Eric tell you about the climb?
"We have 27s for tomorrow and he said he used a 29 last year it's gonna suck!"

I then chatted with Eric Wohlberg (60th @ 19:59 behind Vandborg) as he was peeling layers off and attempting to clean his muddy feet:
You're 40 years old, you've seen a lot, where does that stack up on the misery scale?

"Well, this is high on the misery scale today. I have to check my birth certificate, I think I aged a couple of years in today's stage. Right from the get-go it was nice of them to put a big prime at the top of the first climb to just absolutely blow the field to pieces. After that we groveled back on again, the guys did a great job, I mean we just tried to help each other survive as long as we could and finally the second last KOM the break had put time on again and all I saw was (Jason) McCartney attacked from Discovery and that just punched my ticket for the last time basically. And then we just rolled in, I think Jake survived pretty good but the rest of us just kind of rolled in in the third or fourth laughing group. Doesn't make us feel particularly good for tomorrow, put it that way. If today was that hard I can't see tomorrow being much different really...I've ridden in worse conditions once and that was in Super Week where we actually had a microcell come through and trees were coming down in the road, but short of that at least there wasn't any hail then, it was just really high winds, we were getting blown off the road. Today there were lightning strikes all over the place, and hail and wind and rain and the whole bit, so it was pretty nasty across the board."

And what about Brasstown Bald?
"Well it's just like a Fillmore Street (in the San Francisco Grand Prix) that never really ends. It's gonna be like 39-27 almost all the way up that thing. It's a very, very difficult stage, with a couple of Category 2 & 1 climbs coming into it."
Note: he finished 23rd last year 4:03 behind stage winner Cesar Grajales.

Eric thought the team was staying in a houseboat on Lake Lanier tonight, but even if that's true I'm sure they'll have hot showers and warm meals...

Here are Kodak Gallery-Sierra Nevada rider Dominique Perras' (30th @ 7:14 behind Vandborg) thoughts on today's stage:

"I'm disappointed since I was very close to making the last split (on Wolfpen Gap,) but it's also kind of encouraging since there's a lot of racing left this year and I'm almost where I need to be."

...And on tomorrow:
"I would like to finish top 10 there... Last year I came there way overgeared and I managed to follow the race leaders until the last 2 1/2k but I only had 25 so this year I'm definitely gonna show up with 39-29 as a few guys had last year and it was a big advantage for sure."
Note: he finished 19th last year 3:39 behind stage winner Grajales.

FYI, the forecast tomorrow calls for 15-25 mph wind gusts on Brasstown Bald, so Eric and gang should love that! Add that to a Hors Categorie mountaintop finish at 4784 feet after Category 3, 2 and 1 climbs... I have to say, I'm glad I'll be in a car or standing on the side of the road.

I caught up with Navigators Team Manager Ray Cipollini tonight to ask him about the crash and current condition of Mark Walters. He reports that Mark went down on a corner on a descent going about 65 miles an hour and hit his head. The ambulance was right behind him and they immobilized him quickly. They were going to airlift him out but couldn't due to the weather so they transported him to a nearby hospital. He's back at the hotel now with a lot of road rash and is pretty banged up, but has no broken bones. He's sore and stiff but is walking around and is heading to dinner. Most importantly, he has no concussion, as his Limar helmet obviously did its job.

I spoke with Dan Osipow of Discovery Channel at tonight and he clued me in about Michael Barry. Michael's been troubled by heartburn since Monday and hasn't been able to eat much. That has weakened him, and with the length and conditions of today's stage he was forced to drop out at the Feed Zone 42 miles into the day. This morning Michael told me about his health issues and said he hoped to get over them by the end of the week. Resting at home should certainly help that process.


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