March 20/07 5:47 am - Tour De Georgia Announces Pro Teams
Posted by Editoress on 03/20/07
The 2007 Tour De Georgia Announces Pro Teams To Compete In April
Courtesy Tour of Georgia
Americans George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer and Tyler Hamilton Highlight International Field
With seven full stages, a mountain-top time trial finish and 667 total miles, this year's Tour de Georgia will test the world's best cyclists. The entire field of invited professional teams for the fifth edition of the Tour de Georgia was announced today by Medalist Sports, the sports management agency licensed to operate the Tour.
A total of 15 teams have accepted invitations to compete in the Tour de Georgia, the longest stage race (distance) scheduled in the United States this year. The 2007 Tour de Georgia, one of the highest ranked events outside of Europe (UCI 2.HC), will feature a total field of 15 teams (120 cyclists, 8 riders per team), including five ProTour teams. Of these ProTour teams, three finished in the ProTour Top 10 in 2006, including the top team in the world, Team CSC
Team CSC (Denmark),
Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team (USA)
Prodir-Saunier Duval (Spain)
Quick Step-Innergetic (Belgium)
Four UCI Professional Continental teams have accepted invitations, including Tinkoff Credit System, a new team registered in Italy, and U.S.-based teams, Health Net presented by Maxxis, Team Slipstream presented by Chipotle and the Navigators Insurance Professional Cycling Team. Five UCI Continental (USA) teams accepting invitations include Jittery Joe's Professional Cycling Team, Priority Health Cycling Team presented by Bissell, Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team, BMC Professional Cycling Team and Colavita/Sutter Home Presented by Cooking Light Team. Also confirmed is the USA Cycling National Development Team.
"The stature of the Tour de Georgia field continues to grow year after year," states Jim Birrell, Race Director and Managing Partner of Medalist Sports. "We are very proud that two of our four overall winners (Lance Armstrong 2004, Floyd Landis 2006) have gone on to win the Tour de France in the same year of their victory here in Georgia. That says something as to the quality of the event and the field that is invited every year to compete. Kevin Livingston, the Tour de Georgia's Competition Director, has again assembled an outstanding and world-class field for our spectators and viewers to enjoy."
Discovery Channel Professional Cycling team, the No. 4 ProTour team at the conclusion of the 2006 season, is considered among the top contenders in this year's Tour de Georgia. Discovery Channel has a reputation for bringing a team loaded with talent. Tom Danielson, Levi Leipheimer, and George Hincapie are among their top riders expected to compete in Georgia. Danielson won the Tour de Georgia in 2005 and placed second in 2006, just four seconds behind winner Floyd Landis. The 29-year-old American also won the infamous stage up Brasstown Bald Mountain, along side teammate Lance Armstrong, in 2005.
Leipheimer, winner of February's Amgen Tour of California, was the former leader for the German-based Team Gerolsteiner. He competed in Georgia in 2005, finishing second. "After just missing out on the win in 2005, I am really looking forward to coming back to race at the Tour de Georgia this year. I was bummed that it didn't work out to return last year as the race is perfectly placed in the calendar for me to test my fitness," said Leipheimer, who returns to Georgia this year with his new team. "It is going to be exciting to come back and race with Discovery Channel, an American team, this year and try to get Johan (Bruyneel, director sportif) another win in Georgia."
Hincapie, who resides in Greenville, S.C., is the reigning USA Cycling Professional Road Race Champion. He last competed in the Tour de Georgia in 2004. "The wrist fracture I suffered in California was very unfortunate as it meant I would miss racing Paris-Roubaix, one of my big objectives. However, I had to move on and the first thing I considered was using the Tour de Georgia as the beginning of my Tour de France preparation. I have always thought it was a great race and with the team going for the win, it was an easy sell to Johan," stated George Hincapie.
Team CSC is one of the strongest teams in the pro peloton, being ranked No. 1 on the ProTour for the past two years. This year's team is expected to include two top Americans, Dave Zabriskie and Bobby Julich. Zabriskie has ridden the Tour de Georgia three times before, never placing lower than sixth. He is the current USA Cycling Professional Time Trial champion, and has won a stage at all three of the Grand Tours (Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, Vuelta a Espana). Julich, who won the prestigious Paris-Nice stage race last year, finished fourth in the 2005 the Tour de Georgia. For 2007, Team CSC has added Argentinean sprinter Juan JosÃ© Haedo,who won Stage Six of the Tour de Georgia last year riding for the Toyota-United Pro team.
Ranked seventh in the world last year is Spanish team Prodir-Saunier Duval. Look for this elite team to bring time trial specialist David Millar (Great Britain) to Georgia. Millar recently won the Prologue of 2007 Paris-Nice and won both Stage 14 and the individual time trial at the 2006 Vuelta a Espana. He has also won three stages at the Tour de France since 2000. Prodir-Saunier Duval has competed in Georgia three times, finishing fourth in 2006.
Predictor-Lotto of Belgium (formerly the Davitamon-Lotto squad) competed for the first time in Georgia in 2006. American "Fast" Freddy Rodriguez may return to Georgia, where he won Stage Four in 2006 and captured the Sprint Leader competition in 2003 and 2006. He came in second overall in 2003 riding for Team Saturn. Rodriguez is a three-time U.S. Pro National champion. Other riders expected to compete are Chris Horner (USA), who won the first Tour de Georgia in 2003, and Cadel Evans (Australia), winner of the 2006 Tour de Romandie.
Returning to Georgia for a second consecutive year is Quick Step-Innergetic. This Belgian team features the world's leading sprinter, Tom Boonen (Belgium), and the current World Champion, Paolo Bettini (Italy). While these athletes may opt for the "Spring Classics" in Belgium, Quick Step-Innergetic should bring strong riders such as Italians Matteo Tosatto and Leonardo Scarselli.
New Professional Continental team Tinkoff Credit System (Italy) features former Phonak rider Tyler Hamilton (USA). Hamilton has chosen the 2007 Tour de Georgia as his first competition back on American soil after a two-year suspension. Hamilton is considered a strong contender in the General Classification. He has won stages in all three of the Grand Tours and a gold medal in the time trial discipline at the 2004 Olympic Games.
"I'm really looking forward to racing inside the United States again. I'm hoping the good block of early season racing I'll have under my belt by April will serve me well. The last pro cycling race I competed in inside the U.S. was in San Francisco in 2001," Hamilton said about his return to professional cycling. "I hope that we can make a good showing at the Tour of Georgia. The team is really strong and I have a lot of confidence in them. We'll pick the leader based on who is riding best at the time."
Health Net presented by Maxxis features general classification contender Australian Nathan O'Neill. He sat out the 2007 Amgen Tour of California due to a hip injury, and most recently, is recovering from injuries sustained in a vehicle accident. In addition to a record eight Australian National Time Trial Championships, O'Neill wore the inaugural leader's jersey at the Tour de Georgia in 2003 by winning the Prologue (Savannah, GA), and has placed among the Top 10 all three years he competed in Georgia (2003, 2005, 2006). Canadian Ryder Hesjedal is new to Health Net, but has ridden for both Discovery Channel and Phonak. He is a strong time-trialist and climber, and brings years of experience to the Health Net squad.
"The event has been fantastic. It's been good to me. The first year I came here it was a bit of a science experiment. Some teams didn't know what to expect. I have been very impressed," added O'Neill, who is now a Georgia resident.
Sergey Lagutin from Pro Continental team Navigators Insurance Cycling Team had a great 2006 season. The 26-year old is the current National Road and Time Trial Champion of Uzbekistan. In 2006 he won the Tour de Å’Toona and took home the sprinter's jersey at the Tour of Utah.
Team Slipstream presented by Chipotle features 22-year-old Craig Lewis of Greenville, S.C. Lewis won both the Under-23 National Criterium championship and the U23 National Road Race championship in 2006. The argyle-clad pro squad, which previously raced under the name of TIAA-CREF, also features Brad Huff.
Georgia's own Jittery Joe's Professional Cycling team, a Continental America Tour team, is always a favorite at the Tour de Georgia. Spectators can look forward to watching Cesar Grajales return to Brasstown Bald Mountain. Grajales, a climbing specialist from Colombia, South America, won the inaugural climb to the top of Georgia's highest peak in 2004, beating favorites such as Armstrong and Horner.
Priority Health Cycling Team presented by Bissell, based in Michigan, is in its second full season and makes its first appearance in the Tour de Georgia. Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) led the team with a third place finish in the Prologue at the 2007 Amgen Tour of California. He is a three-time national collegiate cycling champion.
Returning for a second year is the Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team, the No. 2 team on the National Racing Calendar last year. Top sprinter, Ivan Dominguez (Cuba), won Stage 7 of the 2007 Amgen Tour of California, and wore the yellow jersey in the 2004 Tour de Georgia. Teammate Henk Vogels (Australia) returns and looks to recapture a stage win in Georgia, winning Stage 1 in 2003.
New to the Continental America Tour roster this year is the BMC Professional Cycling Team. Team BMC is led by 38-year-old Scott Moninger (USA), who was born in Atlanta, Ga. and resides in Colorado. Moninger has over 260 career victories, making him the winningest active racer in North America. The team also features Alexandre Moos (Switzerland), David Vitoria (Switzerland) and Ian McKissick (USA) 2006 Elite Time Trial National Champion.
Led by former USPro Champion and 7-11 cyclist Tom Schuler, the Colavita/Sutter Home Presented by Cooking Light Team is an American team with a decidedly international flavor. Newcomers for 2007 include Irish National Champion David McCann (IRE) and two-time San Francisco Grand Prix winner and former Canadian Criterium champion Charles Dionne (CAN). Sponsors include Colavita USA, the number one brand of imported Italian extra-virgin olive oil and Trinchero Family Estates in Napa Valley, the producers of several wines including Sutter Home.
Supported heavily by AMD, Specialized, the USA Cycling Development Foundation and VMG Racing, the 2007 USA Cycling National Development Team includes a roster of 18 riders, ages 25 or younger, who have been identified by competitive results as the next potential crop of professional, Olympic, or otherwise world-class cyclists.