If you have access to the Outdoor Life Network, don't miss the Dodge Tour de Georgia highlight show this Sunday at 5-7 p.m. ET.
Whatta race! The hilly terrain, the stormy weather and the star-studded field produced one of the most dramatic weeks in North America's road cycling history.
Above all were two significant results.
First, Lance Armstrong has some serious ground to make up before the start of the Tour de France on July 2. He finished fifth in Georgia after a shockingly poor performance in stage 3's 18-mile time trial. He lost a huge 1:46 to stage winner Floyd Landis and was beaten by seven other riders as well.
Second, former mountain bike racer Tom Danielson, 27, emerged as the potential "next Lance." The two are teammates on Discovery Channel, this being Danielson's first season with the squad. In Georgia he displayed the climbing and time trialing ability it takes to win stage races.
Danielson's overall victory was sealed in the penultimate stage, which ended atop Brasstown Bald Mountain, Georgia's highest elevation with grades of 20%. The road is so steep that even Armstrong was using a 39x27-tooth low gear.
With Lance keeping an eye on then-race-leader Landis, Danielson attacked on the mountain, began making time, and then dropped breakaway companion Levi Leipheimer to solo into the overall lead -- by four seconds.
"There will never be another Lance Armstrong," was Danielson's quick response to the inevitable expectations raised by his victory. "I just want to do the best I can in the future."
Next he will learn what a three-week stage race is like. He'll ride the May 6-30 Giro d'Italia and play a captain's role to Discovery Channel leader Paolo Savoldelli, the 2002 Giro winner. But if Savoldelli should falter . . .
Armstrong, meanwhile, is back in Texas, spending time with his three kids and figuring out what he needs to do in the next 10 weeks to have the best chance of winning his seventh consecutive Tour de France.
"I have to re-evaluate where I am and evaluate what needs work," he told cyclingnews.com before leaving Georgia. "Clearly the time-trial was bad. You can't do time-trials like that and win the Tour de France, that's for sure. So I have to look at where I am. Is it lack of time-trialing, is it a problem with lack of time on the time-trial bike, is it climbing, is it my condition? Did I not do enough in the winter? Um, I don't think so."
Lance summed up, noting a positive: He felt better as the week's 650 miles of racing wore on.
"I think I'm on track. I don't know that it's perfect, but I'm not far off. So, the next few weeks after this will dictate a lot about what will happen this summer. I know that you have to look at every aspect of cycling: the training, the diet, the rest, the recovery, the lack of distraction. All that stuff has to be perfect in order to win another Tour."
Will he be ready for the TDF? I wonder.