BRASELTON — Think of April in Georgia, and what comes to mind?
Chances are the Tour de Georgia doesn’t. But things are soon about to change. The sixth annual Tour de Georgia is only two days away and will feature the addition of a team time trials event, the first of its kind in the United States in more than 20 years.
The team trials is Thursday at Braselton’s Road Atlanta.
“It will be an awesome spectacle to see the teams in formation lapping Road Atlanta,” said Nathan O’Neill, a local professional cyclist, in an e-mail. “The Road Atlanta circuit will prove difficult in the very start since the teams will have to negotiate the circuit in reverse direction. The Tour de Georgia has taken the unprecedented step of including a team time trial, and I highly recommend coming to watch history in the making.”
The time trials pit cyclists against the clock over a set course in two separate heats, encouraging athletes to compete as a team.
The event requires all eight members of a team to race together to cover the course as quickly as possible, with the time of the fifth rider becoming the team’s respective time.
According to O’Neill, teams will use a strategy called a pace line. Riders will take turns riding hard in the front while the other teammates draft behind the team leader, saving their energy for when their turn comes to set the pace up front.
“Unlike a traditional road race, there are no other tactics that are relevant, other than employing a good pacing strategy to ensure that a team maintains a fast average speed from start to finish,” O’Neill added. “If a team starts with eight guys, that means they can sacrifice three riders by making them work extra hard early on. If they can’t keep up, then the team will shed them in the final few miles and get their fifth guy across as (quickly) as possible.”
The team time trial will be run counterclockwise around the 2.54-mile Road Atlanta road course. Riders will climb the steep hill at Turn 12 in the opposite direction used by sports cars and motorcycle competitors.
Each heat will consist of four laps, with the finish line located on the support pit lane.
With the length of the course set at 16.1 kilometers (10 miles), most should expect teams to race together as a whole rather than individually.
“(There will be) a rather large hill at the start of the race, and although each team will do four laps of the circuit for a total of 10 miles, to start up a steep incline will prove challenging to any team,” O’Neill said.
“I think teams will start up the hill somewhat conservative, and then by the next lap the team will have some momentum going into the climb and the riders’ legs will already be pumped to a certain degree, which will make it a little easier on the weaker riders in each team.”