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Busy week of activities rolls in with Tour de Georgia

POSTED: May 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.

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More than 160 cyclists will be sweeping through Gainesville on Wednesday for the sixth annual Tour de Georgia, one of the nation's elite cycling events.

The seven-stage race begins Monday morning at Tybee Island with 15 cycling teams that will race a total of 590 miles throughout the week to the finish line Sunday afternoon at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta.

The third leg will begin in Washington at 11 a.m. Wednesday, with riders traveling 108 miles to Gainesville. Cyclists are expected to cross the finish line near the Martha Hope Cabin on Green Street at about 2:50 p.m.

The rider with the best time in all seven races earns the Tour de Georgia trophy.

This marks the third year a portion of the Tour has been held in Hall County, with Gainesville host to a stage finish in 2003 and a stage start in 2005. Cycling icon Lance Armstrong even rolled through Gainesville in 2005, when his teammate, Tom Danielson, won the event.

Stacey Dickson, president of the Gainesville Hall County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said area hotels are fully booked for the event. About 25,000 spectators are expected to turn out for the Gainesville leg of the race.

A slew of related events are scheduled Wednesday behind the Gainesville Civic Center. Starting at 1 p.m., children 12 years old and younger are invited to partake in the N2 a Cure Lil'500 race on Green Street. Adults can also test their speed on the 500-meter circuit in the N2 a Cure Adult Charity Ride.
A free health and wellness exposition is set for 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesday while Michael Ward of the band The Wallflowers will perform alongside Shades of Grey from 1 to 3 p.m.

Kristy Scrymgeour, spokeswoman for Tour de Georgia contender Team High Road of California, said the Georgia event is one of the three top cycling races in the United States and attracts many international cyclers. Teams from as far away as Germany, Luxembourg, Canada and Denmark will compete. And for the first time ever, China's GE Marco Polo Cycling Team will compete on U.S. soil.

After passing through Gainesville, riders will move on to a 10-mile team time trial at Road Atlanta in Braselton on Thursday. Friday, they will race 133 miles from Suwanee to Dahlonega.

Scrymgeour added that the most challenging leg of the Tour de Georgia will take place Saturday when riders begin the steep race from Blairsville up to Georgia's highest peak, Brasstown Bald.

"It's a difficult race," said Scrymgeour. "Whoever's going for the overall win will be focusing on that stage ... it will be a big factor in the overall win."



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