April 23, 2006 — The day belonged to G.C. (general classification) leader Floyd Landis (USA) of Phonak Hearing Systems, who maintained his four-second advantage over second place finisher and fellow American champion Tom Danielson of Discovery Channel Pro Cycling team, winning the 2006 Ford Tour de Georgia. Third place went to Danielson’s teammate Yaroslav Popovych (Ukraine). Danielson won last year’s event by four seconds over Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Gerolsteiner, and Landis finished just nine seconds back.
This year, Landis takes home the yellow Ford Overall Leader jersey and the FrÃ¤bel glass trophy, created by FrÃ¤bel Artists Hans Godo FrÃ¤bel and Tung Bui. Landis flatted with four laps to go in Alpharetta, but lost no time in the end with a wheel change from teammate Ignacio Gutierrez (Spain). This was the third major victory of the year for Landis, previously winning the Amgen Tour of California and Paris-Nice.
“It feels very good. I don’t think it was any easier, or harder than the other races. They were all very difficult. Obviously, our team is one of the favorites when we come here (to Georgia), so nobody made it easy on us,” Landis said at the post-race press conference. “It was a very good race. It was close, but we pulled it off.”
The grand finale of the Ford Tour de Georgia came down to a field sprint after 118.2 miles/190.2 km and six furious circuits in historic Alpharetta, won by Juan Jose “JJ” Haedo (Argentina) of Toyota-United Pro cycling team. Gord Fraser (Canada) of Health Net presented by MAXXIS, who has won the Alpharetta stage the past two years, finished second. Third place went to Swiss rider Aurelien Clerc of Phonak Hearing Systems.
“I put all my heart into the last 150 meters to pull it off. My team did a big, big effort and I wanted to pay (them) back,” said Stage Six winner Haedo, who won two stages earlier this year at the Amgen Tour of California. “I’m happy for me, for my team and all the people who came out here to watch the race.”
Of the 119 original riders 100 finished the Ford Tour de Georgia on Sunday, completing the 601.5-mile stage race. The Aaron’s Most Aggressive Rider jersey changed hands again today, going to American Will Frischkorn of Team TIAA-CREF. Today’s final stage included one United Community Bank King of the Mountain climb, over Burnt Mountain. Jason McCartney (USA) of Discovery Channel had enough points from Stage Four and Five to win the United Community Bank King of the Mountain jersey, which he also won in 2004.
Speedsters thrilled spectators with MAXXIS sprint lines in Cumming and Alpharetta. American “Fast Freddie” Rodriguez of Davitamon-Lotto wore the MAXXIS Sprint jersey all week and will take it home for keeps. The GE Best Young Rider jersey was awarded to 22-year-old Janez Brajkovic (Slovenia) of Discovery Channel.
“From the turn out of the crowds, to the level of excitement we saw here today (in Alpharetta), it was pretty extraordinary. I heard the cyclists talk about tradition, and coming back next year. It’s exciting for us. It’s continuing to grow and as long as it grows, we’re excited,” said Craig Lesser, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the marketing arm of the state of Georgia which is a presenting sponsor of the Tour.
1 Juan Jose Haedo (Toyota United)
2 Gord Fraser (Health Net)
3 Aurelien Clerc (Phonak)
1 Floyd Landis (Phonak)
2 Tom Danielson (Discovery)
3 Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery)