March 6, 2008 (Atlanta, GA) – Details about the 600 miles of racing for the 2008 Tour de Georgia presented by AT&T were unveiled today by event organizers. The sixth season for this prestigious professional cycling event will include a record 13 Georgia Power Sprint lines and eight United Community Bank King of the Mountain climbs during the seven days of racing, April 21 to 27.
On Monday, April 21, the Tour will begin for the first time on Tybee Island, Ga., located on the coast. The event will move north along the eastern side of the state, entering South Carolina for the first time as part of the Stage 2 finish in Augusta, Ga. A 10-mile Team Time Trial at Road Atlanta is also a first and is expected to attract a record crowd for Stage 4. There will be a new route for one the signature mountain stages in the Blue Ridge Mountains before the event finishes with a new circuit course in downtown Atlanta on Sunday, April 27.
“The route this year will continue to challenge the best cyclists in the world over varied terrain, and it will provide thousands of race fans a chance to see many new beautiful parts of Georgia. The Tour de Georgia presented by AT&T has firmly established itself on the international racing calendar as one of the premier tune-up stage races for the Grand Tours of Europe, like the Tour de France. It has also substantiated itself as a showcase event for Georgia tourism and our world-class southern hospitality,” said Chris Aronhalt, managing partner of Medalist Sports and Event Director for the Tour de Georgia. Medalist Sports is responsible for all route planning and race logistics.
The Tour de Georgia presented by AT&T remains one of the highest ranked stage races outside of Europe with a 2.HC rating from the Union Cycliste Internationale (international governing body of cycling), and was the first race in North America to receive this top rating. It is one of 15 races on the2008 USA Cycling Professional Tour. The event has grown from a five-stage race in 2003 to a seven-stage weeklong contest with 600 miles of racing. Last year the Tour challenged 15 of the top U.S. and ProTour professional teams with its longest route, covering 667 miles.
Stage One features the first of five new host venues, Tybee Island. The Overall Start of the seven-day race makes its inaugural seaside visit on Monday, April 21. The stage will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Tybee Island, covering 71.8 miles (115.6 km) through the coastal Lowcounry of Chatham County. There will be three Georgia Power Sprint lines on the route (locations tbd). The pro peloton of 120 professional cyclists, representing 15 teams, is expected to cross the finish line in Savannah between 1:05-1:45 p.m. It has been five years since the Tour de Georgia has been contested in Savannah, America’s first planned city, when it hosted the Prologue of the 2003 Tour.
Stage Two will depart Tuesday from first-time host Statesboro, Ga., located 50 miles north of Savannah. This 115.7 mile (186.2 km) route will include two Georgia Power Sprints (one will be in Millen) and the first official climb of the week, a United Community Bank King of the Mountain (KOM) competition in North Augusta. A circuit finish in downtown Augusta will take cyclists into South Carolina for the first time. It is the fourth time the Tour has been hosted by Augusta. A second day of generally flat terrain, this stage will begin at 11:00 a.m. in Statesboro and is expected to finish in downtown Augusta between 3:15-4:30 p.m.
Stage Three makes its inaugural start in historic Washington, Ga. on Wednesday, April 23. Situated about 35 miles north of Augusta, Washington, considered one of the most picturesque small towns in Georgia, will fire the start gun at 11:00 a.m. for a 109.7 mile (176.5 km) stage across rolling terrain to Gainesville. Along the way, riders will face one UCB KOM climb (tbd) and three Georgia Power Sprints (Tignal, Comer, Homer). This will mark the third time the Tour has been held in Hall County, with Gainesville hosting a stage finish in 2003 and a stage start in 2005. A downtown finish will include circuits and is expected to finish between 3:00-4:00 p.m.
Two firsts for the Tour will take place on Thursday, April 24 — venue and event. Stage Four features a 10-mile (16.1 km) Team Time Trial at Road Atlanta. Renowned for its hilly 2.5-mile, 12-turn race track used for motorsports events like Petit Le Mans, Road Atlanta will host a Tour stage for the first time. The Tour de Georgia has hosted an individual time trial for four consecutive years, but this is the inaugural Team Time Trial. In this exciting race against the clock, each team must field all eight riders at one time. Teams will begin in heats; two teams on the track at once. The start and expected finish times will be announced later in March.
The longest stage of the Tour will take place on Friday, April 25, passing through 10 Georgia counties. Stage Five is 133.4 miles in length (214.7 km) and challenges riders with three UCB KOMs (Burnt Mtn, Woody Gap, Crown Mtn). The epic day of climbing begins in Suwanee, Ga., the first time the Tour has started in Gwinnett County. A new route will wind north, with a Georgia Power Sprint in Cumming, to the finish line in Dahlonega, GA. It is the third time that Dahlonega, home to America’s first gold strike, has hosted the Tour (2004-2006). The race begins in Suwanee at 10:00 a.m. and is expected to finish between 2:50-4:10 p.m. in Dahlonega.
Stage Six features the signature climb of the Tour de Georgia presented by AT&T, the stage finish at the highest spot in Georgia (4,783 feet), Brasstown Bald Mountain. What makes the climb so difficult is the 88.4 miles (142.3 km) of racing through the Appalachian Mountains of Georgia, including UCB KOM climbs across Hogpen Gap and Unicoi Gap; points for a third KOM climb will be awarded on the top of Brasstown Bald. Blairsville, the seat of Union County and home to United Community Bank, will host the stage start for a third time (2005 and 2006) beginning at 11:00 a.m. The National Forest Service, which operates the visitor center at Brasstown Bald Mountain in Union County, expects over 25,000 spectators to watch the final 3.12 miles of the race on this final climb, and to see the stage finish as early as 2:15 p.m., or close to 3:00 p.m., depending upon the weather and speed of the peloton.
The Tour de Georgia returns to Atlanta, Ga. for a third time for Stage Seven on Sunday, April 27. There will be a new circuit race on the streets of the Capitol city, beginning and ending at Centennial Olympic Park. The peloton of professional cyclists will pass Woodruff Park, Bedford Place Park, and the Georgia Institute of Technology. The grand finale of the Tour will be 62.7 miles (100.9 km) in length. Three Georgia Power Sprints will be held during intermediate laps at the start/finish line. From all along the circuit, spectators will see 10 full laps, each lap is 6.3 miles (11.9 km). Festivities and family entertainment will be scheduled all day at the Health and Wellness Expo in Centennial Olympic Park beginning at 1:00 p.m. The overall awards ceremony will take place in the Park after the race finish, expected to be approximately 3:15-3:40 p.m.
Details and maps for all stages are available at the official website, www.tourdegeorgia.com. Additional resources such as log sheets, elevation profiles and recommended viewing locations will be added to the website in the coming weeks.