I've just returned from Georgia and the first four stages of the 2006 Ford Tour De Georgia. Though a have been reading BF for years, this is my first new thread so it may have some issues. Here goes.
On Monday morning, my oldest child and I left our home in southwest Virginia headed for Georgia. We made it to Augusta and spent the night with some friends. The next morning we went downtown to see the start of our first ever pro bike race. We planned our escape route from town so that we could beat the caravan to the feed zone just past Sparta. Then, we parked and walked one street over to Broad to watch the start. We got there very early so we had time to grab a bite to eat at a local bakery. Then, we walked to the staging area. We looked at all of the bikes, riders, spectators, police, motorcycle crews, team vehicles, etc. We were about as happy as we could be. We were surprised that we could just walk up and talk to the riders. They were very nice. It also surprised us at how much they talk to each other. James Brown started the race and the riders went around the circuit a couple of times before leaving town. The weather was very nice, but I think turn out was a little low in Augusta.
After the start in Augusta we ran back to our car and headed out of town to just past Sparta to the Stage 1 feed zone. On the way there, we discussed whether or not Johan was here with Team Discovery. We parked our car way down the road and walked down to the end of the feed zone. We stood across the road from the Discover feed car. We were the only spectators there. We waited a long time then, we started to see cars from the caravan. (In case you have never experienced a pro race, they travel with a large entourage.) Then one of the men from Discovery started trying to call Johan on the radio. That answered our question about whether he was there or not. Finally the break away came through and then the peloton. We had wondered if we would be able to obtain at least one water bottle. As the peloton passed one rider balled up his feedbag and tossed it right to my daughter. Then, several water bottles landed at her feet. We ran up the road after they had passed and collected a total of 9 bottles and 5 or six feedbags (musettes). We had a great day and went back to Augusta for the night. We ate at Barbaritos. Yum!
On Wednesday, we left Augusta and drove down I-20 through Atlanta (never again) and south to Fayetteville. This town went all out for the race. It looked like the ideal place to live. Anyway, we got there early so after a small nap in the car, we walked to the staging area. We looked at all of the bikes and stuff, and then we went to the Discovery bus where we took pictures of Johan while he was being interviewed by a foreign TV channel. We saw Phil Leggit from OLN for the second day. (We actually saw him everyday. He walked through the crowd speaking to anyone.) Then we stood there and waited for the Disco riders to emerge from the bus. While we stood there, someone said that Lance Armstrong was on the bus. Someone coming off the bus confirmed this. The riders came off the bus and went down to sign in one at a time. Finally, right before the race was to start, Lance came off the bus and headed right for the team car. We had to run around the bus to see him. He signed a few autographs on his way to the car. My daughter tried to get his autograph, but was probably not assertive (rude) enough. I did manage to get a few bad pictures. Anyway, Lance kept bumping into her as he walked forward (I don’t think that she has washed her elbow yet).
We watched the start of the race and quickly headed out of town on back roads all the way to Rome.
We traveled through some bad thunderstorms and the riders did too. We monitored ham radio repeaters on the way. Skywarn was activated during the entire race. We had no problem parking in Rome. We walked one street over to the race finish. It was a lot cooler here because of the storms. I wished that I had gotten my coat out of the car. The announcer was very loud; it took me a while to get over the headache. After three exciting laps around town, we watched Yaroslav Popovich sprint to the finish for the stage 2 win. We didn’t stay for the awards ceremony. We had dinner at a local restaurant and again we were surprised to see teams out riding the streets of Rome. Evidently the team buses were not very close to the finish line. After a very full day we headed to Chattanooga to stay with my brother for a few days.
On Thursday my brother took us up on Lookout Mountain onto Nick A Jack road to witness the biggest climb in the time trail. It was really cool being up there. The scene on the road looked exactly like scenes from the Tour de France. There were people riding their bikes and drawing on the road. Everyone seemed to cheer for everyone. It was easy to take good pictures because of the relatively slow speed of the riders while climbing. We watched all of the riders go by and headed back to Chattanooga for a very good dinner at a local sandwich shop. Then we visited a few of the local bike shops. We spent the rest of the evening at my brother’s house having good fellowship.
On Friday morning, we left my brother’s house and went to see the start in Dalton, GA. Dalton was another nice city. We actually followed the teams caravan into the city. We watched the last start that we would see of the 2006 tour and headed back north to the Litespeed factory for a tour at 1 o’clock. The tour lasted about an hour. It was very interesting seeing those bikes being built. (I want one very badly now!). After the tour we gassed up and headed for home arriving here six hours later.
All together we traveled over 1425 miles, saw 5 states, took hundreds of pictures, and burned lots of gas. Our vehicle was a Mazda Protégé5. This got good gas mileage and was big enough for two of us and all our stuff. It also will turn around within the width of most highways. This was important because we made many wrong turns. Georgia has a very nice countryside. We really enjoyed getting to see lots of places that we would never have other wise had the chance to visit. We took along with us a laptop, digital camera, cell phone, VHF ham radio transceiver (from another hobby), two 120-volt invertors (to charge batteries), our clothes, maps, a printed copy of the Tour de Georgia web page, etc. Next year I will plan on seeing the last four stages. I will have a better digital camera, GPS mapping software and a radio scanner. We also plan to take our bikes next year as we often wished that we had them this year.
I have included 2 pictures from each stage for your enjoyment. If you get a chance next year, the Tour de Georgia is a very easy race to see.
(Yes that is snot hanging off of the mouth of the Disco rider. He ruined my shot, but if I had been climbing that hill it would have been breakfast and snot)