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Cyclists race through North Georgia again with Tour of Atlanta
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Cycling fans will get to enjoy an encore race this weekend when the Georgia Cup's Tour of Atlanta tears into town.

The Tour of Atlanta is seven race stages in five days, starting today in Buford and continuing through Monday. On Sunday, more than 500 cyclists, both professional and amateur, will invade downtown Gainesville for the sixth stage.

The races begin at noon with the juniors and ends with the final professional race starting at 6 p.m.

This is the largest pro/am race in the country, said race organizer James Lowe, and very few amateurs have a chance to take part in a race such as this.

One of the riders this weekend is Cesar Grajales, who made a name for himself in the cycling community when, as a rider for the Jittery Joe's team, he passed Lance Armstrong on the climb up Brasstown Bald in the 2004 Tour de Georgia.

John Murphy, a professional cyclist for the Health Net team who is based in Athens, will also be among the riders this weekend. He won the Tour de Taiwan earlier this year.

"The Georgia Cup is the largest bike race series in the country," Lowe said, adding that the idea to have a stage of the race in Gainesville came after the success of the Georgia Cup Criterium earlier this year.

Part of that success also comes from the city, Lowe said, and the support of the business community.

"I think the best thing was the police," he said of the criterium race. "The Gainesville police gave us white glove service."

"Some races you go to, we don't get a lot of police support," he added. "But Gainesville bends over backwards for us."

What many people don't realize, Lowe said, is the amount of hours that goes into organizing a cycling competition. There's scouting the courses, puling permits for street closures and lining up extra insurance, for example.

"At the end of the day, you're looking at 150 to 200 man hours that went into the Tour of Atlanta."

But for the hundreds of cyclists who will be competing around the square on Sunday, all that matters is the course.

"They loved it," Lowe said of the response after the criterium earlier this year. "It's fast, but at the same time it's challenging. Fast turns."