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Cycling world brings its best to Gainesville

POSTED: May 4, 2008 5:01 a.m.
Tom Reed/The Times

Riverbend Elementary students Luke Volle, left, and Reese Olson work on Tour de Georgia posters they will use to greet the cyclists when they pass the school today as they enter Gainesville on Clarks Bridge Road and turn onto Cleveland Highway.

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Today the worldwide cycling community focuses on Gainesville.

Some of the world’s most renowned cyclists will pedal through Hall County en route to Prior Street in City Park, the finish line for Stage Three of the sixth annual Tour de Georgia.

"This is a chance for the people of Gainesville to see some of the best athletes in the world," said Micah Rice, director of the Jittery Joe’s Pro Cycling Team. "It will be a fairly difficult sprint to the finish, and the spectators will be in for a treat."

Today’s stage of the Tour de Georgia begins at 11 a.m. in Washington and travels 108.2 miles through Elbert, Franklin and Banks counties before it crosses into Hall County at an estimated time of 2:15 p.m. in Gillsville. Roughly 20 minutes later, the cyclists will enter Gainesville on Pine Valley Drive near White Sulphur Road. The stage will conclude at the Martha Hope Cabin in City Park between 3 and 4 p.m.

"Right downtown is where the action will be," Rice said. "In the park is definitely the place to be."

For those unfamiliar with cycling, the area surrounding the finish line may prove to be the most enjoyable. With big screen monitors and announcers, spectators will be able to follow every leg of the race, from the three sprint races within the stage to the time the cyclists cross under Interstate 985 and head toward the finish line.

Also near the finish line will be an expo area where spectators can purchase food and Tour merchandise. According to Rice, interested spectators should arrive at the finish line one hour before the estimated time of conclusion of the stage. An estimated 25,000 people will attend Stage Three of the Tour de Georgia.

"The casual observer will really enjoy the finish," Rice said. "It’s a great place to bring the family. Plus, it’s free."

While the casual observer will appreciate the amenities near the finish line, cycling enthusiasts are planning on doing everything in their power to see as much of the race as possible.

"We’re going to find a spot in the middle of the stage and then make our way to the finish," said Scott Hodge, a cycling enthusiast and bike mechanic at Addictive Cycles in Braselton. "If you time it right, you could see the cyclists two or three times during the stage."

Hodge said he is excited because this stage of the Tour de Georgia most resembles a European race.

"The terrain in North Georgia duplicates Italy really well," Hodge said. "There’s no other stage race in the Southeast that does that."

Along with today’s race, Hodge and his fellow cycling friends plan to attend Thursday’s Time Trials at Road Atlanta in Braselton.

"Cycling is really exciting to watch and really scary to watch these guys sprint elbow-to-elbow at 40 to 45 miles per hour," Hodge said. "You don’t get to see a cycling event like this that much in the U.S., especially in Georgia."


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