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Grajales scores mountain triumph in Georgia; Armstrong takes third and cements lead

  • By Neal Rogers
  • Published Apr. 24, 2004
  • Updated Apr. 15, 2008 at 4:01 PM EST

By Neal Rogers

Grajales should be smiling – he worked hard for this one.

Photo: Casey Gibson

Colombian climber Cesar Grajales of the Athens, Georgia-based Jittery Joe’s team took the biggest victory of his career Saturday at the Dodge Tour de Georgia, escaping from a select group to solo away atop the hors categorie Brasstown Bald Mountain ascent.

Race leader Lance Armstrong (U.S. Postal Service-Berry Floor) finished third on the stage, 17 seconds behind, in the same time as second-place overall Jens Voigt (CSC). Defending champion Chris Horner (Webcor Builders) took fourth, 27 seconds down. CSC’s Bobby Julich, fourth overall coming in to the stage, took sixth behind Health Net’s Scott Moninger but held on to his GC position.

“It is huge for our team because we are the local team,” an emotional Grajales said. “We are maybe the smallest team in the group, so this is just amazing for us. Everybody knows that Lance [Armstrong] has different goals. His goal is for the Tour de France. This is the biggest race in the United States, the Tour de Georgia, and I was training for this day three months ago. I’m just happy because all this work, all this training…I’m just really happy.”

The day began at full throttle, as CSC, Jelly Belly, Ofoto-Lombardi Sports and Landbouwkredit-Colnago were aggressive from the gun. After 18 miles of attacks and counterattacks, a group formed that consisted of Thomas Eriksen (CSC), Jacky Durand (Landbouwkredit-Colnago), Todd Herriott (Colavita Olive Oil), Jeff Louder (Navigators), Gord Fraser (Health Net), Paul Ellis (Jelly Belly), Ivan Ravaioli (Barloworld), Erik Saunders (Ofoto) and Russell Hamby (Sierra Nevada).

Three riders — Alessio Galletti (Domina Vacanze), James Mattis (Webcor Builders) and Jake Rosenbarger (Jittery Joe’s) — tried to bridge, but only Galletti was able to make the junction, at mile 25, while Mattis and Rosenbarger eventually sat up.

Galletti’s presence wasn’t necessarily welcome in the break, however; at 3:58 down on GC, the former Saeco rider was the highest-placed rider in the bunch.

“That put a little bit of pressure on Postal to keep it close,” said Fraser, who was in the group to secure points at the three designated sprint spots along the 128-mile route, and in doing so reclaim the points jersey he lost to Ivan Dominguez (Colavita Olive Oil) earlier in the week.

“I asked everyone if it was okay if I took the points, and it was,” Fraser said. “If they’d said no, I wouldn’t have worked and kept fresh legs and had a good chance to sprint for those points. That way there was good cohesion in the break and we could get down to business and get a good rhythm.”

Behind, U.S. Postal’s Mike Creed, Damon Kluck and Antonio Cruz rode at the front while Webcor and CSC stayed close. Inexplicably, Domina Vacanze’s Francesco Secchiari came to the front for over 10 miles, driving the chase to his teammate’s breakaway group and prompting many to question whether Postal had recruited a new teammate for the afternoon.

“We were riding,” Armstrong said. “[Domina Vacanze] put a rider up there. We thought that seems a little odd, but … when somebody puts a rider there you don’t ask questions.”

As the breakaway went through the second sprint spot in Cleveland (mile 68) and approached the Category 1 Hogpen Gap climb, Galletti upped the pace and split the group in two, taking only Fraser with him.

“I knew Galletti was quite strong, and he was the GC guy in the break, and when he attacked the break, I thought, ‘There’s kind of a free ride, at least to the base of the climb,’ ” Fraser said. “I was hoping to stay with him for as long as I could.”

Halfway up the steep Hogpen Gap ascent, Julich put in an attack that shattered the field, but Armstrong’s “Blue Train” quickly countered the move. Ahead, at the climb’s KOM, Galletti went over the top with a lead of 1:10 over Fraser, with Herriott another 50 seconds back and the peloton slowly driving in on them.

But Galletti and Fraser held strong, albeit for different reasons. While Fraser sat up after crossing the third sprint spot at Young Harris (mile 104), Galletti opened up a gap of nearly four minutes, making him the race leader on the road as he approached a climb none in the peloton would soon forget.

The highest point in Georgia, the 10km Brasstown Bald climb (elevation 4679) features long stretches of gradients at or in excess of 20 percent, sending riders scrambling for larger rear cassettes in the days leading up to the stage. Horner rode the climb with a 28-tooth cog, while Armstrong and Voigt used 25’s. Grajales, who had ridden the climb a handful of times leading up the race, used a 26.

“Oh, I used my 28, many a time,” Horner said. “That was a beautiful gear to have. I felt sorry for anyone that was running a 23.”

The pace quickened as the field took the right-hand turn onto the final 5km of steep roads, a climb Colavita Olive Oil’s Nathan O’Neill says “rates up there with anything they have over in Italy.”

Then all hell broke loose.

Galletti was soon caught and spit out the back as the lead group, 12 strong, turned the screws. Driving the group were Armstrong’s teammates Viatcheslav Ekimov and Daniel Rincon, with Tim Johnson (Saeco-Prodir-Saunier Duval), Moninger, Horner, Voigt and Julich in the bunch. Two riders that were shed from the group 4km remaining were George Hincapie (U.S. Postal) and Eric Wohlberg (Sierra Nevada).

“It was looking like a race in Europe,” Grajales said. “All the people cheering makes you feel stronger. I was thinking to attack in the steepest part, but I thought that might be too late, so I did it with 3km to go, because I didn’t want to wait until Lance and Horner and this guy [Voigt] who were fighting for the general classification. So I just decided to attack and look for my stage.”

When Armstrong failed to react to Grajales’s attack — the Jittery Joe’s rider began the stage 3:24 down on GC — Voigt decided to have a go at it and made an attack of his own. But Armstrong quickly reacted, taking Horner, and only Horner, with him. Within the penultimate kilometer the three suffered together, carefully marking each other.

“We had a good position with me sitting second in GC and Bobby short behind at fourth position,” Voigt said. “We tried to take advantage of that, but hey, what can you do when Lance is just stronger? Bobby had a go, I had a go on top of this, and for a while I was thinking maybe it’s worked now. But Lance came back and he brought Chris Horner, and I’m not only looking to try and beat Lance, but also look behind that Horner doesn’t pass me and I lose my spot, so it’s like we neutralized each other there for a while.”

But with Grajales 20 seconds up the road, time was running out for either Voigt, 24 seconds down on GC, or Horner, 51 seconds back, to escape and try to gain overall time or even the stage win.

“I tried,” Horner said. “I was doing everything I could. When Cesar punched it that really split the group. When Cesar jumped Lance picked the pace up. If I remember right it was Jens in front, Cesar went around Jens, just as we were coming up to him. So Lance brought Jens back and it was just the three of us, and I knew if I wanted to win the stage I had to get rid of Jens and I had to bring Cesar back. Lance looked pretty good — he did. He rode an intelligent race, smart all the way. He worked when he had to — he worked to bring back Jens. He didn’t have to bring Cesar back, because he has such a comfortable lead, and so for me to win I knew I had to get rid of Jens who has such a strong finishing speed, and I had to catch Cesar, but I couldn’t do both. I couldn’t get either. I drilled it, I saw the 1km sign, I tried one last time to bring it back, and I think I made to about 800 meters and that’s when the legs said, ‘No, you’re not going to catch ‘em.’”

With Horner struggling to maintain contact, Armstrong and Voigt were content to ride in the rest of the barbaric climb side by side, with Voigt taking it at the line. The stage, which was attended by thousands of enthusiastic fans, was the first time bicycles had been allowed to access the summit of the U.S. Forest Service property.

“I have never seen something like this in my career, which has been for some years now, that is a really, really hard one,” the German said. “Plus the heat on top if it, and it’s at the end of a stage makes it even harder. We had a great public here, people cheering, shouting at us, but it was damn hard.”

Armstrong admitted the climb was as bad as anything he’d ever seen, and had kind words for the stage winner.

“It was much harder than I’d anticipated,” he said. “I kept looking up and thinking, ‘There’s no way we’re going to the top, because we only have less than 10km to go. I don’t know how we can get up there,’ But now I understand. When you go up the side of a wall, it’s pretty easy to climb fast. [It was] very, very hard. That was a maximum effort on my part, and I’m sure it was a maximum effort on Jens’s part, and we couldn’t catch him.”

It was a monumental day for the college town of Athens, the starting point of the stage, the home base of Jittery Joe’s and the host city for that evening’s 25th Twilight Criterium.

As for Horner, the defending champion from the inaugural, Brasstown-free event, it was a bittersweet defeat to lose the overall to the strongest rider in the world.

“I’m pretty content at this point and time,” Horner said. “I rode a pretty good time trial, it was pretty respectable, and with some more time on the bike I think I could have been even closer. I’m pretty happy with the hilltop here. Not satisfied, but content. I’m just happy to call this a week, and get back home and start training for Philly.”

Top U23 rider Kevin Bouchard-Hall finished 26th on the stage, 4:49 down, and ahead of top names like Jason McCartney, Chris Baldwin, Tim Johnson, Will Frischkorn, Tim Johnson and George Hincapie.

The Dodge Tour de Georgia concludes Sunday with a rolling 88-mile stage from Dawsonville to Alpharetta. No major changes to the general classification are expected.

Predicts Voigt, “the Blue Train is riding tempo, keeping it under control and in the end the teams are going to join together and maybe we’ll have a bunch sprint. We have Ivan Dominguez, he seems to be really fast and in good shape, we have Gord Fraser, who will be coming for another stage win, we have Mario Cipollini, who will be coming for a stage win. That’s three teams interested in keeping it together, so I would say nine out of ten it’s going to be a bunch kick tomorrow.”

Results

Dodge Tour de Georgia

Stage 6 results

1. Cesar Grajales Calle (Col), Jittery Joe’s Coffee, 224.3km in 5:16:29

2. Jens Voigt (G), CSC, at 0:17

3. Lance Armstrong (USA), U.S. Postal Service, at 0:17

4. Chris Horner (USA), Webcor, at 0:27

5. Scott Moninger (USA), Health Net/Maxxis, at 1:02

6. Bobby Julich (USA), CSC, at 1:08

7. Sergio Marinangeli (I), Domina Vacanze, at 1:20

8. Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus), U.S. Postal Service, at 1:45

9. Justin England (USA), Webcor, at 1:58

10. Cobo Acebo Juan Jose (Sp), Saeco-Prodir-Saunier Duval, at 2:06

11. Adam Bergman (USA), Jelly Belly, at 2:21

12. Benjamin Brooks (Aus), Jelly Belly, at 2:35

13. John Lieswyn (USA), Health Net/Maxxis, at 3:04

14. Francesco Bellotti (I), Team Barloworld, at 3:04

15. Ernesto Lechuga (MEX), Jelly Belly, at 3:09

16. Tim Larkin (USA), Ofoto/Lombardi Sports, at 3:29

17. Daniel Rincon (Col), U.S. Postal Service, at 3:36

18. Brian Vandborg (Dk), CSC, at 3:39

19. Dominique Perras (CAN), Ofoto/Lombardi Sports, at 3:39

20. Phil Zajicek (USA), Navigators Insurance, at 3:39

21. Danny Pate (USA), Health Net/Maxxis, at 3:51

22. Salvatore Commesso (I), Saeco-Prodir-Saunier Duval, at 3:59

23. Eric Wohlberg (CAN), Sierra Nevada, at 4:03

24. Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA), Sierra Nevada, at 4:29

25. Charles Dionne (CAN), Webcor, at 4:34

26. Kevin Bouchard-Hall (USA), U-23 National Team, at 4:49

27. Jason Mccartney (USA), Health Net/Maxxis, at 4:53

28. Christopher Baldwin (USA), Navigators Insurance, at 4:53

29. William Frischkorn (USA), Colavita Olive Oil, at 5:06

30. Tim Johnson (USA), Saeco-Prodir-Saunier Duval, at 6:13

31. Alessio Galletti (I), Domina Vacanze, at 6:13

32. Jimmi Madsen (Dk), CSC, at 6:27

33. Imanol Ayestaran Odriozola (Sp), Webcor, at 7:12

34. Doug Ollerenshaw (USA), Jelly Belly, at 7:26

35. Caleb Manion (Aus), Jelly Belly, at 7:26

36. George Hincapie (USA), U.S. Postal Service, at 7:33

37. David George (RSA), Team Barloworld, at 7:33

38. Timothy Duggan (USA), U-23 National Team, at 7:39

39. Daniel Bowman (USA), U-23 National Team, at 7:55

40. Chris Wherry (USA), Health Net/Maxxis, at 8:15

41. Stefan Adamsson (SWE), Team Barloworld, at 8:19

42. Todd Herriott (USA), Colavita Olive Oil, at 8:42

43. Mikhail Timochine (Rus), Landbouwkrediet – Colnago, at 8:48

44. Maximilian Sciandri (GB), CSC, at 9:04

45. Paul Ellis (USA), Jelly Belly, 10:10

46. Scott Zwizanski (USA), Ofoto/Lombardi Sports, 10:37

47. Jakob Piil (Dk), CSC, 11:08

48. Benjamin Haldeman (USA), Webcor, 11:35

49. Russell Hamby (USA), Sierra Nevada, 11:57

50. Pavel Padrnos (Cz), U.S. Postal Service, 12:19

51. Gregory Henderson (NZl), Health Net/Maxxis, 12:27

52. Mike Sayers (USA), Health Net/Maxxis, 12:27

53. Gordon Fraser (CAN), Health Net/Maxxis, 12:27

54. Jacky Durand (F), Landbouwkrediet – Colnago, 12:59

55. Ivan Dominguez (CUB), Colavita Olive Oil, 13:18

56. Antonio Cruz (USA), U.S. Postal Service, 13:25

57. Jeff Louder (USA), Navigators Insurance, 13:25

58. Ivan Ravaioli (I), Team Barloworld, 13:52

59. Sean Sullivan (Aus), Team Barloworld, 13:59

60. Thomas Bruun Eriksen (Dk), CSC, 17:26

61. Michael Creed (USA), U.S. Postal Service, 17:31

62. Thad Dulin (USA), Colavita Olive Oil, 17:43

63. James Mattis (USA), Webcor, 17:48

64. Tyler Wren (USA), Colavita Olive Oil, 17:48

65. Mori Massimiliano (I), Domina Vacanze, 17:48

66. Yuri Metlushenko (Ukr), Landbouwkrediet – Colnago, 17:57

67. Chad Hartley (USA), Jittery Joe’s Coffee, 18:04

68. James Schneider (USA), Jittery Joe’s Coffee, 18:04

69. Jason Klikna (USA), Sierra Nevada, 18:04

70. Francesco Secchiari (I), Domina Vacanze, 18:04

71. Mario Cipollini (I), Domina Vacanze, 18:04

72. Jackson Stewart (USA), Ofoto/Lombardi Sports, 18:13

73. Sergey Lagutin (UZB), Landbouwkrediet – Colnago, 18:17

74. David Clinger (USA), Domina Vacanze, 18:21

75. Mario Scirea (I), Domina Vacanze, 18:25

76. Jason Bausch (USA), Ofoto/Lombardi Sports, 18:25

77. Giovanni Lombardi (I), Domina Vacanze, 18:50

78. Vassili Davidenko (Rus), Navigators Insurance, 18:50

79. Nicola Gavazzi (I), Saeco-Prodir-Saunier Duval, 19:00

80. Damon Kluck (USA), U.S. Postal Service, 19:00

81. Mark Walters (CAN), Navigators Insurance, 19:00

82. Aaron Olson (USA), Colavita Olive Oil, 19:12

83. Ciaran Power (IRL), Navigators Insurance, 19:35

84. Henk Vogels (Aus), Navigators Insurance, 19:35

85. Stuart Gillespie (USA), U-23 National Team, 19:35

86. Gustavo Artacho (ARG), Colavita Olive Oil, 19:35

87. Alex Candelario (USA), Jelly Belly, 19:43

88. Jesse Lawler (USA), Jittery Joe’s Coffee, 19:49

89. Enrico Degano (I), Team Barloworld, 20:05

90. Juan Jose Haedo (ARG), Colavita Olive Oil, 20:11

91. Erik Saunders (USA), Ofoto/Lombardi Sports, 20:11

92. Ludovic Capelle (B), Landbouwkrediet – Colnago, 20:20

93. Kirk Albers (USA), Jelly Belly, 20:46

94. Blake Caldwell (USA), U-23 National Team, 21:01

Overall (after 6 of 7 stages)

1. Lance Armstrong (USA), U.S. Postal Service

2. Jens Voigt (G), CSC, at 0:24

3. Chris Horner (USA), Webcor, at 1:01

4. Bobby Julich (USA), CSC, at 1:57

5. Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus), U.S. Postal Service, at 2:59

6. Cesar Grajales Calle (Col), Jittery Joe’s Coffee, at 3:07

7. Scott Moninger (USA), Health Net/Maxxis, at 3:44

8. Sergio Marinangeli (I), Domina Vacanze, at 4:06

9. Brian Vandborg (Dk), CSC, at 4:52

10. Eric Wohlberg (CAN), Sierra Nevada, at 5:25

11. Adam Bergman (USA), Jelly Belly, at 5:27

12. John Lieswyn (USA), Health Net/Maxxis, at 5:38

13. Phil Zajicek (USA), Navigators Insurance, at 5:54

14. Christopher Baldwin (USA), Navigators Insurance, at 6:13

15. Benjamin Brooks (Aus), Jelly Belly, at 6:17

16. Danny Pate (USA), Health Net/Maxxis, at 6:17

17. Dominique Perras (CAN), Ofoto/Lombardi Sports, at 6:26

18. Cobo Acebo Juan Jose (Sp), Saeco-Prodir-Saunier Duval, at 6:42

19. Francesco Bellotti (I), Team Barloworld, at 7:07

20. Justin England (USA), Webcor, at 7:13

21. Ernesto Lechuga (MEX), Jelly Belly, at 7:39

22. Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA), Sierra Nevada, at 8:07

23. William Frischkorn (USA), Colavita Olive Oil, at 8:16

24. Daniel Rincon (Col), U.S. Postal Service, at 8:41

25. Salvatore Commesso (I), Saeco-Prodir-Saunier Duval, at 9:38

26. Charles Dionne (CAN), Webcor, at 9:53

27. George Hincapie (USA), U.S. Postal Service, at 9:53

28. Alessio Galletti (I), Domina Vacanze, at 9:54

29. Jimmi Madsen (Dk), CSC, 10:34

30. Kevin Bouchard-Hall (USA), U-23 National Team, 10:49

31. Tim Larkin (USA), Ofoto/Lombardi Sports, 11:56

32. Doug Ollerenshaw (USA), Jelly Belly, 12:30

33. Imanol Ayestaran Odriozola (Sp), Webcor, 13:02

34. Caleb Manion (Aus), Jelly Belly, 13:06

35. Stefan Adamsson (SWE), Team Barloworld, 13:31

36. Jason Mccartney (USA), Health Net/Maxxis, 13:48

37. Chris Wherry (USA), Health Net/Maxxis, 15:03

38. Timothy Duggan (USA), U-23 National Team, 17:28

39. Todd Herriott (USA), Colavita Olive Oil, 18:52

40. Maximilian Sciandri (GB), CSC, 18:58

41. David George (RSA), Team Barloworld, 19:23

42. Daniel Bowman (USA), U-23 National Team, 19:25

43. Pavel Padrnos (Cz), U.S. Postal Service, 20:14

44. Mikhail Timochine (Rus), Landbouwkrediet – Colnago, 21:40

45. Mario Scirea (I), Domina Vacanze, 22:26

46. Mori Massimiliano (I), Domina Vacanze, 23:04

47. Ivan Ravaioli (I), Team Barloworld, 23:47

48. Russell Hamby (USA), Sierra Nevada, 23:49

49. Tim Johnson (USA), Saeco-Prodir-Saunier Duval, 25:23

50. Sergey Lagutin (UZB), Landbouwkrediet – Colnago, 25:46

51. Thad Dulin (USA), Colavita Olive Oil, 25:56

52. Henk Vogels (Aus), Navigators Insurance, 26:35

53. Mike Sayers (USA), Health Net/Maxxis, 27:54

54. James Mattis (USA), Webcor, 28:04

55. Mark Walters (CAN), Navigators Insurance, 28:18

56. Jeff Louder (USA), Navigators Insurance, 28:49

57. Jakob Piil (Dk), CSC, 29:01

58. Thomas Bruun Eriksen (Dk), CSC, 29:16

59. Ciaran Power (IRL), Navigators Insurance, 29:37

60. Gordon Fraser (CAN), Health Net/Maxxis, 29:52

61. Scott Zwizanski (USA), Ofoto/Lombardi Sports, 30:24

62. Antonio Cruz (USA), U.S. Postal Service, 31:15

63. Benjamin Haldeman (USA), Webcor, 31:53

64. Paul Ellis (USA), Jelly Belly, 32:08

65. Jacky Durand (F), Landbouwkrediet – Colnago, 32:16

66. Aaron Olson (USA), Colavita Olive Oil, 33:00

67. Sean Sullivan (Aus), Team Barloworld, 33:34

68. Alex Candelario (USA), Jelly Belly, 34:07

69. Jason Bausch (USA), Ofoto/Lombardi Sports, 35:35

70. Gregory Henderson (NZl), Health Net/Maxxis, 35:54

71. Jackson Stewart (USA), Ofoto/Lombardi Sports, 36:33

72. Mario Cipollini (I), Domina Vacanze, 37:23

73. Tyler Wren (USA), Colavita Olive Oil, 37:26

74. Damon Kluck (USA), U.S. Postal Service, 37:34

75. Vassili Davidenko (Rus), Navigators Insurance, 37:35

76. Yuri Metlushenko (Ukr), Landbouwkrediet – Colnago, 37:43

77. David Clinger (USA), Domina Vacanze, 37:44

78. Michael Creed (USA), U.S. Postal Service, 37:59

79. Chad Hartley (USA), Jittery Joe’s Coffee, 38:07

80. Giovanni Lombardi (I), Domina Vacanze, 38:29

81. James Schneider (USA), Jittery Joe’s Coffee, 39:10

82. Juan Jose Haedo (ARG), Colavita Olive Oil, 39:18

83. Jason Klikna (USA), Sierra Nevada, 39:24

84. Erik Saunders (USA), Ofoto/Lombardi Sports, 39:26

85. Stuart Gillespie (USA), U-23 National Team, 40:50

86. Gustavo Artacho (ARG), Colavita Olive Oil, 41:59

87. Kirk Albers (USA), Jelly Belly, 42:06

88. Blake Caldwell (USA), U-23 National Team, 42:09

89. Francesco Secchiari (I), Domina Vacanze, 42:20

90. Enrico Degano (I), Team Barloworld, 42:49

91. Ludovic Capelle (B), Landbouwkrediet – Colnago, 43:34

92. Nicola Gavazzi (I), Saeco-Prodir-Saunier Duval, 44:00

93. Jesse Lawler (USA), Jittery Joe’s Coffee, 46:07

94. Ivan Dominguez (CUB), Colavita Olive Oil, 50:59

FILED UNDER: Race Report / Race Results / Road TAGS:

Neal Rogers

Neal Rogers

Neal Rogers is editor in chief of Velo magazine and VeloNews.com. An interest in all things rock 'n' roll led him into music journalism while attending UC Santa Cruz, on the central coast of California. After several post-grad years spent waiting tables, surfing, and mountain biking, he moved to San Francisco, working as a bike messenger, and at a software startup. He moved to Boulder, Colorado, in 2001, taking an editorial internship at VeloNews. He never left. When not traveling the world covering races, he can be found riding his bike, skiing, or attending a concert.

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