April 22, 2006 – Like a championship boxing match, Tom Danielson (USA) of Discovery Channel exchanged attacks with fellow American Floyd Landis, but on the steep pitches of Brasstown Bald Mountain, and Danielson won Stage Five of the 2006 Ford Tour de Georgia. Danielson won this same stage last year, but with both cyclists receiving the same time, 4:04:56, Landis holds on to a slim four-second advantage over Danielson for the lead in the General Classification.
“Tom (Danielson) knows that he’s better at accelerating, and I’m better at a constant speed, so I assume that’s what they were telling him he should do on race radio. I didn’t have a choice but to stay with him,” said Landis, who retains the Ford Overall Leader. “I thought he would let his teammate (Popovych) win. I wanted to keep Popovych close, although I knew he wasn’t going to get a minute. All I had to do was stay with Tom, and that was my goal. I didn’t want to ride in front of him (Danielson) too much. He sprinted at the end, got the stage, but I did what I had to do.” Discovery Channel’s Yaroslav Popovych (Ukraine) worked with Danielson on the final five- kilometer climb up Brasstown and finished 17 seconds back for third place. He was followed close behind by Cesar Grajales of Navigators Insurance, much to the delight of the thousands of fans lining the twisting mountain who were looking for the Colombian to repeat from his 2004 victory. 109 riders began Stage Five under rainy conditions in Blairsville, Ga. and finished under sunny skies on the highest point in Georgia, Brasstown Bald Mountain at an elevation of 4,784 feet/ 1458 meters. The final five kilometers of the stage challenged the best cyclists in the world with an average gradient of 10-12%, and one section in the final 1,000 meters that reaches 24% gradient. The famous local climbs of Hogpen Gap (Category 1) and Unicoi Gap (Category 2) were both won by Jason McCartney (USA) of Discovery Channel, putting him into the United Community Bank King of the Mountain jersey.
“Today we (Discovery Channel) had a very strong team, and we were ready to do a great climb. I think, from my perspective, we underestimated how strong Floyd (Landis) was. We had such a great team at one point, there were three of us, and one of him,” Danielson said at the post-stage press conference. “Last year I had attacked at the bottom and this year I put all my cards at the end, but Floyd was very, very strong. I went once and Floyd was with me, and I waited for Popovych. It became this tactical race, trying different tactical maneuvers, it was like a chess match.” In the General Classification, Popovych moves into third position, knocking out David Zabriskie (USA) of Team CSC, who drops to sixth overall.
Popovych will also wear the Aaron’s Most Aggressive jersey on Sunday. Two other presentation jerseys will not change going into the final stage – Janez Brajkovic (Slovenia) of Discovery Channel keeps the GE Best Young Rider jersey and Fred Rodriguez (USA) continues to wear the MAXXIS Sprint Leader jersey for a fifth consecutive day. Stage Six is the final leg of the Ford Tour de Georgia, beginning in Cumming, Ga. Sunday April 23 at 12:30 p.m. with an expected finish in Alpharetta, Ga. between 4:45 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. The peloton will race 118.2 miles/190.2 km including six circuits of approximately four miles each in Alpharetta, with the finish line on Morrison Parkway near Haynes Bridge Road.
1 Thomas Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel 4.05.56
2 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems
3 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel 0.18
4 Cesar Augusto Grajales (Col) Navigators Insurance 0.23
5 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Discovery Channel
6 Remmert Wielinga (Ned) Quick Step-Innergetic 0.28
7 JosÃ© Enrique Gutierrez Cataluna (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems 0.49
8 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Discovery Channel 1.35
9 Justin England (USA) Toyota-United Pro 1.49
10 Marco Pinotti (Ita) Prodir-Saunier Duval 1.58
1 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 19:23:10
2 Thomas Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel at 0:04
3 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel 1:55
4 Jose Enrique Gutierrez Cataluna (Esp) Phonak Hearing Systems 2:11
5 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Discovery Channel 2:15
6 David Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC 2:31
7 Nathan O’Neill (Aus) Health Net p/b Maxxis 3:45
8 Marco Pinotti (Ita) Prodir-Saunier Duval 3:54
9 Christopher Baldwin (USA) Toyota-United Pro 4:01
10 Cesar Augusto Grajales (Col) Navigators Insurance 4:20