Posted by Editoress on 04/24/05
Dodge Tour de Georgia
Amy Smolens spoke to a couple of the Canadians before and after Stage 5
Stage 5 of the Dodge Tour de Georgia was just as billed... 113.4 miles of challenging terrain... Category 3, 2 and 1 climbs followed by a Hors Categorie finish atop 4784 foot Brasstown Bald, the highest peak in Georgia. Add 30-something degree fahrenheit weather, severe wind gusts, and a few snow flurries for good measure and you have yourself an epic stage that would fit in a European stage race.
To give you an idea of the extreme difficulty of the past two stages, 119 riders finished Stage 3 Thursday. 83 riders finished Stage 5 Saturday. So a total of 36 racers either abandoned, were casualties of time cuts or were disqualified over the past two stages.
I spoke with Dominique Perras of Kodak Easyshare Gallery-Sierra Nevada before the race:
After yesterday how tough is it to be going up Brasstown Bald today? "Yesterday was a very hard stage and today I expect it to be just as hard with the wind. I think it might be even some action before, the General Classification is not sorted so I think CSC and Discovery will be on the attack early on to put pressure on Phonak. On a personal note I'm gonna try more to save myself and do as good a climb as I can do in the end because we're down to two on my team (he and Jackson Stewart...) The two last climbs are so hard that for a break to make it they need a really big gap like a 10 minute gap so I think it's pretty unlikely but we'll see."
What did you learn last year in this stage that will help you this year? "I learned that I need 39-29, that's what I learned, and I learned that the last 3 kilometers are just brutal. And with the wind it might be even worse this year. This year we're prepared so... we'll hope for the best and it's pretty much a true fitness test out there so you do what you can."
Having finished as the top Canadian, in 23rd, 9:33 behind stage winner Tom Danielson of Discovery Channel, here are Dominique's post-race thoughts:
"The real selection was on Hogpen (Gap, the third KOM, a Category 1 climb) and I held onto the 2nd group. Everyone was tired. I rode my own pace on Brasstown Bald. I did my best effort and I'm happy with my ride."
Geoff Kabush of Jittery Joe's-Kalahari wasn't far behind Perras, crossing the line in 32nd, 12:29 behind Danielson.
What was it like out there today?
It was real windy today and Phonak was keeping the pace high from the start so we were never really going easy. But I just tried to hang in there and take care as long as I could and I was to about halfway up Hogpen and then just suffered my way up the finish. I mean yesterday was an incredibly hard day. Usually after a workout like that I'll take a week off, but had to get up for the day again and take care of Trent (Lowe, fellow MTBer also racing for Jittery Joe's) so I'm glad it's over. It was pretty painful the last couple of kilometers, let me tell you."
Trent did keep the Best Young Rider's Jersey so you accomplished a lot: "Yeah, it was a huge goal for the team for Trent to keep the jersey...he had to fight hard and hopefully we survived today and can take care of him tomorrow for the finish."
How does this compare to a hard day in mountain biking?
"Well, the mountain bike hurts too but it's over fast. On this you just have to keep pushing through again and again and you just have to keep digging, find some way to make it over the last couple of hills and make it to the finish... It's really been a great opportunity to do this race but definitely right now mountain biking's gonna be my primary focus for the next couple years, but hopefully I can fit in with Jittery Joe's-Kalahari for a few races like this because it's a nice way to challenge myself and keep things interesting."
Eric Wohlberg Team Symmetrics finished 40th, 16:29 behind Danielson. I spoke to him in his post-race tent on top of Brasstown Bald:
Are you getting too old for this?
"No, no (while laughing) - no my technique was I start the climb off slow and petered off from there (more laughing,) it was just so hard, oh, God...wow, at least it wasn't raining today. It was kinda cool, but as long as I'm dry and relatively warm I don't really care much past that, you know. Jake (Erker, 38th) and I both got up the hill the best we could, and the guys were just fighting all day long as usual. They threw in a hard Category 1 climb right before this thing and that split the field up right then and there.... And then everyone just tried to pedal squares the best they could up this thing but it's so steep. I was 39-27 almost all the way up and I was still doing the paperboy on some of the steep pitches so that's not a good sign."
On days like this do you sometimes wish you'd chosen another profession? "Oh, if I could dance I'd be a ballroom dancer, something like that (more laughing, of course.) No, I really enjoy this sport and I think it's a great activity, you know there are so many people out here cheering us on and that kind of divides the misery in half anyways. I'm still glad I chose this, it's a lot of fun."
Speaking of fun, while freezing up on Brasstown Bald, I ran into Paul DeVries from Toronto, here on holiday with Steve Bauer Bike Tours, and he told me a bit about his experience so far:
"We did a couple of tours with Steve Bauer up in France, so we heard about the Dodge Tour de Georgia and he was setting up custom training camps. So we got a group of 20 guys together and just scheduled it around the Tour of Georgia, the last four days, so that we could do some really tough hills and train, and also come watch the Tour with Steve... It was pretty neat (yesterday) because we were able to get to the end of the race and got into the Yellow Jersey Tent and near the finish there was a bit of a breakaway so we saw them come around the last corner, blazing speed, a couple guys in a breakaway and 4 guys chasing them, and then a pack of about 20 with Lance and Floyd came burning up at the end. It was kind of neat to see how fast they go around some of these corner going upto the sprint finish... We saw Geoff Kabush and Dominique Perras go by so we were cheering them on as they blew by. It's good to see a Canadian team in this (Symmetrics,) it's pretty neat. And Wohlberg obviously did pretty well in the time trial the day before so we were cheering him on."
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