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Bike race will roll through: Hall has two stops on Tour de Georgia
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Hall County will have two stops on the 2008 Tour de Georgia, which will take place April 21 through 27.

Gainesville, which hosted the tour in 2003 and 2005, will be the final destination for the midweek ride from Washington, near Augusta. The following day, a new event — a team time trial — will take place on the course of Road Atlanta near Braselton.

In a seven-day event that stretches from the Georgia coast to the highest point in the state’s mountains, 12 communities have been selected as host venues for the sixth annual bike race.

The introduction of the venues was made Wednesday by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle at a press conference at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite. Cagle also recognized the Aflac Cancer Center and Blood Disorders Service at Children’s Healthcare as the new beneficiary of the 2008 tour.

Five locations will host the tour for the first time — Road Atlanta, Statesboro, Suwanee, Tybee Island, and Washington. Savannah hosted the overall start of the inaugural Tour de Georgia in 2003. Other returning host venues include Atlanta (2003, 2007), Augusta (2005, 2006), Blairsville (2004-2006), Brasstown Bald (2004-2007), Dahlonega (2004-2006) and Gainesville (2003, 2005).

"The Tour de Georgia remains North America’s premier cycling race," Cagle said. "While the event will bring much opportunity, positive economic impact and excitement to our entire state, I am particularly looking forward to having two events so close to home in Hall County."

Kit Dunlap, president and chief executive of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce said hosting two events is good for the profile of the area.

"It’s always good to promote cycling, particularly in a community that is trying to develop bike trails and fitness as a part of Vision 2030," Dunlap said.

Vision 2030 is the community wide planning process now underway in Hall County.

Both Cagle and Dunlap agreed about the potential economic benefit.

"This is a huge win for Hall County and will bring spectators and cyclists from around the world to our very own backyard," Cagle said.

Road Atlanta will host the first team time trial of the Tour de Georgia. The individual time trial discipline has been part of the Tour since 2004. The team event will replace the individual event this year. It is incorporated into stage racing occasionally, and was last part of the Tour de France in 2005. This "race of truth" for teams was reintroduced on American soil in 2007 at the International Tour de ‘Toona in Pennsylvania, and had not been staged since the 1986 World Championships in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Brasstown Bald, the highest peak in Georgia at 4,784 feet, has become the signature "Queen Stage" of the tour, showcasing the mountain region of the state.

The Tour de Georgia maintains its position on the international cycling calendar as a major tune-up for July’s Tour de France. The Tour de Georgia is the longest weeklong stage race in North America with more than 650 miles of scenic byways and highways across the state. It is also one of the highest ranked stage races outside of Europe with a 2.HC rating from the Union Cycliste Internationale (international governing body of cycling) and is one of the top races on the USA Cycling Professional Tour.

The 2007 Tour included 120 athletes from 23 countries. Fifteen professional cycling teams from around the world, each with eight athletes, will be extended special invitations to participate in the event.

By January, an announcement is expected to describe the details of the projected 650-mile route and the top teams accepting invitations.