Posted by Editor on 04/20/04
Fraser Takes Georgia Lead
Gord Fraser (Health Net) has won the first stage of the Tour de Georgia, in a drag race sprint, which he called "One of the very best wins of my career". Fraser beat out Ivan Dominguez (Colavita-Bolla) and Jens Voight (CSC). The expected match up between Mario Cipollini (Domina Vacanze) and the North Americans did not happen when Cipollini pulled up in the last lap and did not contest the sprint.
While Fraser's win and Cipollini's appearance in a North American race for the only the second time were both of interest to the cycling fans, the hordes (and there were hordes) of fans came out in Macon for one reason only - U.S. Postal's Lance Armstrong. Armstrong was warmed by the media when he showed up to sign in, and took a few minutes to sign autographs for his fans. He chatted with a 14 year old cancer survivor on the start line and waved for the adoring crowd. And then he stayed firmly hidden in the pack for the entire 83 mile (133 kilometre) loop east and north of Macon.
That didn't matter to the fans and, indeed, the Cancer Society benefited enormously, with free screening clinics and information areas set up in the Expo area. Special access areas were set up for cancer survivors, and the event was as much a celebration of survival as it was a bike race.
As for the bike race itself, there was little to talk about - Marc Hagenlocher (Webcor) and Tim Larkin (Ofoto) went almost from the gun, carving out a lead that aprroached five minutes before the peloton got serious about bringing them back. Domina Vacanze was first to go to the front, and then Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, and the group was all together by the time the riders entered the finishing circuit in Macon.
There proved to be one little section on the 2 mile (3 kilometre) circuit that determined the outcome of the race - a short cobblestone climb before the finish that burnt the legs of the sprinters. Cipollini's train was set up the first time through the start finish, with Fraser sitting about 12th. The next time through there were only 3 Domina Vacanze's at the front, and on the last lap climb, Cipollini swung out of the train, signalling that he would not be contesting the sprint.
"I saw Cipollini give up on the hill, but I was not sure if I could make it to the front" said Fraser. "The hill was so tough, I was a little cross-eyed going up the last time. But the team had given so much that I had to do it for them."
Sierra Nevada weren't making it any easier, with first Trent Klasna and then Eric Wohlberg taking flyers off the front. Wohlberg wasn't caught until the final lap, when Chris Horner (Webcor) led the chase to bring him back.
Out of the last corner Fraser came off the wheel of team mate Greg Henderson to come in a bike length ahead of Dominguez. For his efforts, Fraser took both the leader's jersey and the points jersey.
- Item Six on the post-race report was particularly interesting: Teams are reminded that it is against race regulations and unlawful to urinate in public. Penalties may be applied against any team members who break this regulation and local law. They may also be subject to a jail sentence from local authorities." We have visions of European headlines: "Cipollini Jailed in Georgia"
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