Greg Henderson was answering questions at a rapid pace at the end of Stage 3 of the Tour de Georgia on Wednesday in Gainesville, but he was most concerned about getting to catch his breath.
Henderson flew through the finish line on Prior Street behind City Park with a time of 3:55.45 to hold off his Team High Road teammate Andre Greipel on the tight, downhill turns at the finish line on the 108.2 mile course that started in Washington.
The finish was quite fast by his estimation reaching speeds of 40 miles per hour as the peleton hit the final turn of the race at the Martha Hope Cabin.
"I’ve come off some pretty good form at the moment, and it showed in the last couple of races in Europe that I’m in pretty good shape," Henderson, from New Zealand, said. "I’ve sacrificed myself a lot for the team over in Europe, and they decided it’s time, to give me a chance to try to win and I’m happy to try to do that." The win for Henderson was a sigh of relief after he was edged out by Juan Jose Haedo (4:32.35) at the Stage 2 finish line Tuesday in Augusta.
"It’s always important for Team High Road to win here in America, since we’re an American based team," Henderson, from New Zealand, said. "We send a strong team to every American race and it’s important that we race strong and race well."
After Stage 3, Henderson holds the overall lead (10:58.17), Team Slipstream Chipolte’s Tyler Farrar is second (10:58.26) and Haedo third (10:58.28).
Farrar finished third in Wednesday’s stage with the same time as Henderson. He was a last second addition to his team heading into the race in Monday’s Stage 1 from Tybee Island to Savannah. Farrar, who bears the best young rider jersey, said the biggest adjustment between the first stage transition into the mountain phase is adjusting to the less forgiving turns in the road.
"It was pretty hectic on the circuits (in the last kilometer in Gainesville)," Farrar said. "We had a little mishap on our team with our GC (General Classification) guy breaking his wheel, and the guys had to go back for him and they did a really good job getting him back into the field which was really good for us.
"I had to play off of High Road as best I could and they rode it to perfection, so I feel pretty happy with third place."
Rounding out the top 10 were Antonio Colom, Fred Rodriguez, Andrew Pinfold, Dominique Rollin, Richard England, Jonathan Cantwell and Bradley McGee all with a time of 3:55.45.
American Frank Pipp, of Team Health Net, retains the King of the Mountain jersey. Australia’s Rory Sutherland claims the most aggressive driver honor after his attack on the last lap of the circuit in Gainesville.
Wednesday’s stage that started at first-time race host Washington had a scary crash for riders along the Broad River near the Madison and Elbert County border. Australian Ben Day (Toyota-United) and American Tim Duggan (Slipstream-Chipolte) were involved in the accident. Duggan was transported to the hospital where he was reportedly in stable condition by team spokesperson Marya Pongrace. Day continued on in the race.
Today’s Stage 4 is a 10-mile time trial at Road Atlanta in Braselton. This is the first time in Tour de Georgia history for Road Atlanta to host a stage of the race on the 2.5-mile, 12 turn track. The 2008 Tour de Georgia concludes with Stage 7 in Atlanta on Sunday.