Reprinted w/o permission from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
[And 4 cool photos are here.
Expansion into Tennessee is winner
By BILL SANDERS
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 04/21/06
Chattanooga —- There's something chic and big-thinking about expanding the Tour de Georgia outside the state.
Kind of reminds you of another bike race that goes outside of its namesake borders, right?
Stage 3's individual time trial of the Tour de Georgia finished in Chattanooga on Thursday, much to the delight of just about everyone. Even though Chattanooga is a mere stone's throw from the state line —- and it is as accessible to downtown Atlanta as Augusta, Dahlonega and various other tour stops —- it is in Tennessee.
And for race planners that's important.
That other bike race of course is the Tour de France, which winds through Belgium, Spain and other countries. Tour de Georgia race director Jim Burrell would be lying if he said he didn't think about that when he expanded into Tennessee.
"Chattanooga is a big market for our sponsors," Burrell said. "They've anxiously pursued us for a couple of years. Last year they submitted a plan, and we just couldn't make it happen. This year we could. I think there will be a big crowd there.
"And hey, the Tour de France goes outside of France, so why not."
The finish line, at Chattanooga's Riverwalk, was within sight of the Tennessee Aquarium and right beside a big green park. Even on an overcast day such as Thursday, the area looked the part.
Stage winner Floyd Landis was impressed with the turnout and challenged by the 24.8-mile course.
"It's much harder than last year's [time trial] in Rome," he said. "I like it here, it's nice and the crowds were great, but this course was hard. I don't particularly like climbing this much in time trials. They've certainly made it challenging on us.
"We'll see how we hold up for [Saturday's climbing stage] I think [Friday] will be OK."
Tom Danielson, last year's overall winner, said the length of Thursday's time trial was the hardest thing.
"It's definitely the longest time trial I've ever done," he said. "I liked Chattanooga though, I think. I saw it cross-eyed, seeing two of everything."
Danielson then asked the crowd if there was good fishing in Chattanooga. He was reminded that he was next door to the Tennessee Aquarium.
"Maybe I'll go fishing there," he joked.
Up and down the town's streets, it was hard not to notice little lanes on the right side of the road, beckoning bike riders to leave their cars at home.
Still, neither Wednesday at lunch nor Thursday were many cyclists seen, outside of Tour riders.
Candace Davis, a spokeswoman from the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said they had received tons of calls preceding Thursday's event —- a sign that Chattanooga was ready to embrace the race.
"The Tour was impressed with the route up here," Davis said. "It's pretty, and difficult, right through Lookout Mountain. Plus, with all the open area here, there's so much space for spectators."
Threatening skies probably kept the crowd down a little, Davis said.