Well, the Tour de Georgia starts today, and unfortunately I can’t make it this year, but that won’t stop me from giving my opinions on the race. The course is very different to prevent last year’s results when a break went up the road, the field stopped chasing, and the GC was limited to the riders in the break. Bad for the organization.
Let’s look at some of the teams.
First off, Astana did not bring last year’s winner Jani Brajkovic (why?). The team is built around Levi Leipheimer to help deliver the overall GC win, as they did at Tour of California. This could be a weakness if they miss the right break.
The biggest competitor to Astana in the GC race will be Rock Racing in their last minute invitation to the race (I guess money does talk). Strong squad led by Botero and Sevilla, coming off a decisive win at Redlands. Their biggest weakness could be their inexperienced DS Mariano Friedick. However, Tyler Hamilton seemed to be giving directions at Redlands and could be the major factor in this race.
Team CSC led by Bobby Julich seems built around stage wins more than overall GC contention, with fast man JJ Haedo in the mix, and climber Inigo Cuesta for Brasstown Bald. Look for this team to jump on any opportunity.
High Road has named former Swedish road and time trial champion Thomas Lovkvist as their GC contender, with Kiwi Greg Henderson looking for sprint wins.
Local favorite Jittery Joe’s led by an on form Neil Shirley is looking for high GC placing. His confidence is up after finishing 3rd in last year’s US Pro, and wants to do well in front of their home crowd. Watch Australian power sprinter Jonathan Cantwell who might surprise a few people.
Slipstream/Chipotle wants to win one of the big American stage races. Last year’s second place finisher Christian Vande Velde has a strong behind him including big motor Danny Pate. Tommy Danielson wants to show the world that he is fully recovered from his back problems and is targeting his favorite stage, Brasstown Bald, for his comeback.
BMC squad will again by aggressive and try to go in breaks. Tour of California’s KOM winner, and last year’s 6th place finisher Scott Nydam is also looking to improve his GC finish.
Bissell led by Ben Jacques-Maynes and TT specialist Tom Zirbel want to put their stamp on stage four, the Team time trial. Scott Zwizanski who’s been flying in local races could be a surprise.
Toyota-United is betting on its fast men to win stages led by Ivan Dominguez and Tour of California revelation Dominique Rollin. Ivan Stevic could be a factor if he has fully recovered from his knee problems, as this will be his first race of 2008. Health Net-Maxxis will also be looking for stage wins led by Australian Rory Sutherland, winner of the 2007 NRC classification.
The other domestic teams, Team Type 1 and Jelly Belly will be aggressive and opportunistic to get into breaks, especially break away artists Glen Alan Chadwick of Team Type 1.
Facing major budget issues, Canadian Symmetrics team wants to shine to pull in new sponsors. Francois Parisien showed great form in Redlands, and bad luck of being behind crash took him off the podium. The riders will be extremely aggressive with Chris Meier and tough man Eric Wohlberg jumping on every move.
Disappointed in the organization for not having more domestic riders in the pre-race Press Conference. Two riders from Rock Racing but no BMC riders after they animated Tour of California, very disappointing.