Tour de Georgia begins

By: Kevin Faigle, Kristen Cosby
By: Kevin Faigle, Kristen Cosby

The fourth annual Tour de Georgia is underway.

Tuesday, April 18, Augusta played host again to the start of the race.

It brought in some of the best cyclists in the world.

There's plenty of work to be done before Sunday's final stage.

All told they'll be covering 600 miles over six days, with the finish line in Alpharetta. But Tuesday the cyclists took three loops through downtown Augusta, then hit the road to Macon 130 miles away.

Even the Godfather of Soul was on hand. Augusta's own James Brown was the honorary starter

But the true stars were on two wheels.

Most people might not realize that the riders race on teams with set instructions on when to go.

There is a little different feel this year without Lance Armstrong riding.

Last year, he helped one of his Discovery Channel teammates win the Tour de Georgia.

Pretty much everyone who was here last year for the event said the crowds were down considerably, thanks to no Lance Armstrong. But that hasn't detracted from the race itself and the quality of the field.

With perfect weather conditions, 120 riders from 15 teams took to the streets of Augusta with hopes of leading after Stage One.

It was a pretty uneventful beginning, with the laps here in town just a ride-along. Once the cyclists left Augusta, the action heated up.

With Armstrong now watching, there's a great chance for guys like Fred Rodriguez, Floyd Landis and Tom Danielson to become the new face of racing in the US.

The Tour de Georgia is the premiere cycling event in North America; a win here can go a long way in a cyclist becoming the next big thing.

Tuesday's first stage ended in Macon, with Lars Michaelson of Denmark grabbing the win. Wednesday it's Fayetteville to Rome, a 116-mile trek.

Tuesday's ride overtook many downtown streets and drew cycling fans to watch.

Hundreds of people lined Broad Street to watch some of the world's best cyclists.

Some people walked outside from Broad Street businesses in their suits and ties.

Others were bikers themselves and wanted to see the best on the road.

But we caught up with several fans, like three-year-old Stewart Baker.

He's just learning to ride a bike and dad Ted Baker thought today would be inspiration.

"He's just learning to ride his bike and it's a good way to teach him to ride his bike," Ted said.

And five-month-old Mack Whitcomb was all dressed up in a biking outfit.

Mom Caroline Whitcomb was hoping the stylish Lycra shorts and the tour would rub off on the baby.

"It's a good way to get us excited and hopefully train a new racer, maybe the next Lance Armstrong," Caroline said.

The Tour de Georgia brought downtown alive for fans this morning. The riders took three laps around the streets, and then, just like that, in about 20 minutes they were gone.


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