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Danielson wins stage, seizes lead at Georgia

[nid:30845]On a day of high drama, riveting plot twists and an outcome that was literally undecided until the last second, the most telling moment may well have come during the ascent of the category 1 Hogpen Gap climb, 96 miles into stage 5 of the Dodge Tour de Georgia. It was there that the world’s most famous bike racer went to the front of a four-rider break and started hammering away for one of his teammates, American Tom Danielson.

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By Neal Rogers

Tom Danielson, Lance Armstrong, and Christian Vande Velde: Is Tom ready to Tour?

Tom Danielson, Lance Armstrong, and Christian Vande Velde: Is Tom ready to Tour?

Photo: Jason Sumner

Danielson rode off the front and stayed there, seizing the stage and the overall lead

Danielson rode off the front and stayed there, seizing the stage and the overall lead

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

On a day of high drama, riveting plot twists and an outcome that was literally undecided until the last second, the most telling moment may well have come during the ascent of the category 1 Hogpen Gap climb, 96 miles into stage 5 of the Dodge Tour de Georgia. It was there that the world’s most famous bike racer went to the front of a four-rider break and started hammering away for one of his teammates, American Tom Danielson.

“On the second to last climb he attacked and pulled the whole way,” said Danielson. “It was just four of us [Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer and Danielson]. The whole time I was on his wheel I was thinking there is no way I’m going to lose this race today because my idol before I was even on a bike was riding on the front for me. I was not going to let anything happen today.”

Something you don't see every day: a six-time Tour champ working for a young up-and-comer

Something you don’t see every day: a six-time Tour champ working for a young up-and-comer

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

Danielson made good on that pledge, eventually dropping Leipheimer on the day’s final climb to take the stage win in 5:06:15, while also putting 1:09 into Landis, who had entered the day as GC leader with a 1:00 advantage on the first-year Discovery rider. And with just the relatively flat 125.2-mile run from Blairsville to Alpharetta remaining in the six-day trip around Georgia, Danielson is al but assured of becoming the overall winner of America’s biggest stage race.

“I’ll just look to my bosses. Lance and Johan will make the call on how to ride tomorrow’s stage,” said Danielson, who owns a four-second advantage on Leipheimer and nine seconds on Landis. “I’ve been in this situation before. For sure tomorrow will be a little stressful, but I’m on the best team in the world.”

Indeed, if Discovery can come up with a game plan as good as the one played on Saturday, everything will be just fine for the former collegiate mountain bike champion.

Results are posted.

Following a quiet first 32 miles where Health Net did most of the work on the front to assure that their sprinter, current points leader Greg Henderson, would be positioned well for the day’s lone sprint, Discovery orchestrated the first sustained break, sending Jason McCartney off the front. McCartney was joined by Cyril Lemoine (Credit Agricole), Tim Johnson (Jittery Joe’s-Kahalari), David Robinson (TIAA-CREF) and Cory Lange (Symmetrics). Lemoine and Lange didn’t last long, but with McCartney doing most of the work, the move quickly had 1:01 on the bunch.

“I thought that Johan had a great plan today,” said Armstrong. “We tried our best yesterday and it didn’t work. But Johan came back with an equally aggressive plan today. Every guy that was part of the plan, especially a guy like Jason McCartney, was superb.”

Robinson eventually dropped off as well, but Johnson and McCartney kept it rolling up and over the first of four rated climbs in the 113.4-mile stage, the category 3 Dick’s Creek Gap. Behind, Phonak was doing most of the pace-setting, with a little help from Health Net. The American team’s presence at the front might have had something to do with the fact that Landis rode with several of its team members back in the late 1990s on Mercury.

McCartney on the attack

McCartney on the attack

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

The weather early on was not nearly the factor it had been the day before, when wind, rain and hail pounded the race. But while it was overcast and cool lower down, the Brasstown Bald summit, highest point in Georgia at 4784 feet, was experiencing bitter cold with occasional flurries. One ranger guessed that with wind chill factored in, it probably felt like the mid-20s.

McCartney and Johnson would stay together off the front over the next climb as well, the category 2 Unicoi Gap, which topped out at 2949 feet. Behind the only real action was a brief attack by Discovery’s Jose Rubiera, who was simply chasing KoM points.

Johnson would eventually relinquish his place at the front, and soon after, at the beginning of the Hogpen Gap, Armstrong and Danielson launched a move that would draw out Landis and Leipheimer. Soon after, six more would bridge across, including Bobby Julich, Christian Vande Velde, David Zabriskie, Andy Schleck (all CSC), Saul Raisin (Credit Agricole) Trent Lowe (Jittery Joes’s-Kalahari), and Marco Pinnotti (Prodir-Saunier Duval).

Before much longer, the group would swell to 15, with Jose Azevedo (Discovery), Nathan O’Neill (Navigators) and Justin England (Health Net) all getting across as well.

That was the make-up of things as the race stormed down the Hogpen descent and headed to the spectator-packed Brasstown Bald mountaintop finish. It’s a climb that has to be seen to be believed, with even the great Armstrong opting for a 27 this year. Some Navigators riders were reportedly running triples.

CSC was the first to go on the offensive, shooting Vande Velde up the road in hopes of setting things up for either Julich or Zabriskie, who both entered the day less than 30 seconds behind Landis. Vande Velde’s advantage would climb to 1:26 before Discovery uncorked its final play.

This time Danielson took off, bringing Leipheimer with him.

“For me that was a special moment,” said Armstrong about watching his young protégé launch what would be the winning move. “I’ve had riders come onto the team, and I’ve invested a lot of time and energy into each and every one of them. Kevin Livingston, Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis and now Tom Danielson, they’ve all become much better riders after they left the team.

“To see one rider who has left the team on his own will [Landis], be taken out by somebody who came on the team and is happy and really pleased to be here [Danielson]; to me that’s a special thing. I think we have a special athlete in Tom. I think Floyd is a great athlete too, but we all move on in life.”

It took little time for Danielson and Leipheimer to reel in Vande Velde, while behind them only Armstrong and Landis were keeping the two runaways in sight.

“I was willing to risk pulling him to try to win the stage and try to win the overall,” said Danielson, who was in jeopardy of handing the overall to Leipheimer, who was 10 seconds up on him. “In the last kilometer the only thing going through my mind was that vision of watching Lance pull for me on the second-to-last climb. I was going to try everything and go down swinging.”

Landis fought valiantly, but was outmanned and outgunned on Brasstown Bald

Landis fought valiantly, but was outmanned and outgunned on Brasstown Bald

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

Besides that vision, Danielson also had a raging Tour de France-like crowd urging him up the hill and his team director barking encouragement in his ear.

“What I could hear on the radio, Johan was great,” said Armstrong, who ended up third, 59 seconds behind Danielson. “Levi was there not working very much, but Johan is a great motivator. He gives the riders a ton of confidence. I was listening. It was great. He just said, ‘Look, he’s on your wheel, but don’t worry, you are going to drop him.’ He just kept telling Tom, ‘You are going to drop him.’ As a rider, you are pulling and you look back and he’s there, but then you’ve got your director saying, ‘Don’t worry, you are going to drop him.’ That kind of confidence coming from your boss is very beneficial. And sure enough, he came back, let him take a pull, and then took a run at him and it was game over.”

The game would end in the final, difficult kilometer, where Danielson finally dropped his foe, putting 14 seconds into the Gerolsteiner rider. Now the only question was how far Landis would fall. The answer would be 1:09, or nine agonizing seconds too long.

Tom at the Tour?
Armstrong was asked about the odds of seeing Danielson on Discovery’s Tour team this year, and while he said it was not likely to happen this year, Danielson would eventually get his chance.

“Tour is crazy,” the six-time Tour winner said. “It is not like any other bike race. It’s 10 times harder than the Giro and 50 times harder than a Tour of Switzerland. It’s aggressive, it’s scary, it’s dangerous. The first week is like Paris-Roubaix every day. It’s just fighting and fighting and positioning. He has to get used to that a little bit more. But the way he goes uphill he can be a threat one day.”

King bent, not broken
U.S. U23 National Team rider Edward King crashed on the descent of Unicoi Gap, just after the KoM. It was rumored a team car may have been involved. King was flown by helicopter to North Fulton Regional Hospital, where a CT scan was negative for head injuries. Race doctors reported King was covered in road rash and being X-rayed for spinal injuries. Race doctors later said he was fine, and though he might be kept overnight for observation, he was expected to make a full recovery

The jerseys
Dodge Leader’s Jersey: Tom Danielson (Discovery Channel)

Maxxis Sprint Leader’s Jersey: Greg Henderson (Health Net-Maxxis)

Georgia Power KOM Leader’s Jersey: Jose Luis Rubiera (Discovery Channel)

GE Best Young Rider Leader’s Jersey: Trent Lowe (Jittery Joe’s-Kalahari)

Aaron Rents Most Aggressive Rider Jersey: Christian Vande Velde (CSC)

To see how the action developed, click our LIVE COVERAGE window. And be sure to tune in again on Sunday, when we will provide live coverage of the sixth and final stage of the Tour de Georgia and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Photo Gallery

Results

Stage 5 results

1. Tom Danielson (USA), Discovery Channel, at 5:06:15

2. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Gerolsteiner, at 0:14

3. Lance Armstrong (USA), Discovery Channel, at 0:59

4. Floyd Landis (USA), Phonak, at 1:09

5. Bobby Julich (USA), CSC, at 1:42

6. Marco Pinotti (I), Saunier Duval, at 1:55

7. Trent Lowe (Aus), Jittery Joe's Coffee, at 2:10

8. Saul Raisin (USA), Credit Agricole

9. Michael Blaudzun (Dk), CSC, at 2:33

10. Andy Schleck (Lux), CSC

11. Christian Vande Velde (USA), CSC, at 2:44

12. José Azevedo (P), Discovery Channel, at 3:05

13. Justin England (USA), Health Net-Maxxis, at 3:27

14. Nathan O'Neill (Aus), Navigators Insurance, at 3:31

15. David Zabriskie (USA), CSC, at 3:45

16. Nicolas Fritsch (F), Saunier Duval, at 4:18

17. Matthias Russ (G), Gerolsteiner, 7:05

18. Brian Vandborg (Dk), CSC, 7:40

19. Danny Pate (USA), Jelly Belly-PoolGel, 7:47

20. Sven Krauss (G), Gerolsteiner, 7:57

21. Scott Moninger (USA), Health Net-Maxxis, 8:06

22. Michael Lange (USA), TIAA-CREF, 8:21

23. Dominique Perras (Can), Ofoto-Sierra Nevada Professional Cycling, 9:33

24. Michele Maccanti (I), Team L.P.R., at 10:39

25. Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus), Discovery Channel, at 10:48

26. Daniele Contrini (I), Team L.P.R., at 11:03

27. Elia Aggiano (I), Team L.P.R., at 11:17

28. David Canada Gracia (Sp), Saunier Duval, at 11:31

29. Rubiera Vigil José Luis (Sp), Discovery Channel, at 11:37

30. Mauro Santambrogio (I), Team L.P.R., at 11:43

31. Cobo Acebo Juan Jose (Sp), Saunier Duval, at 12:07

32. Geoff Kabush (Can), Jittery Joe's Coffee, at 12:29

33. Jason Mccartney (USA), Discovery Channel, at 12:54

34. Tomasz Nose (SLO), Phonak, at 13:08

35. Christopher Baldwin (USA), Navigators Insurance, at 13:30

36. Chris Wherry (USA), Health Net-Maxxis, at 13:55

37. Portal Sébastien (F), Credit Agricole, at 14:29

38. Jacob Erker (Can), Symmetrics, at 15:18

39. Mads Kaggestad (Nor), Credit Agricole, at 16:25

40. Eric Wohlberg (Can), Symmetrics, at 16:29

41. Peter Wrolich (A), Gerolsteiner, at 16:37

42. Daniele Masolino (I), Team L.P.R., at 16:53

43. Manuel Quinziato (I), Saunier Duval, at 17:10

44. Timothy Johnson (USA), Jittery Joe's Coffee, at 17:20

45. Ivan Fanelli (I), Team L.P.R., at 17:37

46. Jackson Stewart (USA), Ofoto-Sierra Nevada Professional Cycling, at 17:49

47. Lars Ytting Bak (Dk), CSC

48. Nick Waite (USA), U-23 National Team, at 18:05

49. Niki Aebersold (Swi), Phonak, at 18:20

50. Davide Frattini (I), Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Pro Cycling Team, at 19:02

51. Phil Zajicek (USA), Navigators Insurance, at 19:40

52. Matthew Rice (Aus), Jelly Belly-PoolGel, at 20:58

53. Andrea Tafi (I), Saunier Duval, at 22:02

54. Jeremy Powers (USA), Jelly Belly-PoolGel, at 22:24

55. Brice Jones (USA), Jelly Belly-PoolGel, at 22:29

56. Aaron Olsen (USA), Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Pro Cycling Team, at 22:54

57. Craig Lewis (USA), TIAA-CREF, at 23:21

58. René Haselbacher (A), Gerolsteiner, at 25:52

59. Michael Rich (G), Gerolsteiner, same time

60. Andy Guptill (USA), U-23 National Team, s.t.

61. Cesar Augusto Grajales (Col), Navigators Insurance, s.t.

62. Sascha Urweider (Swi), Phonak, s.t.

63. John Devine (USA), U-23 National Team, s.t.

64. Geoffroy Lequatre (F), Credit Agricole, s.t.

65. Vassili Davidenko (Rus), Navigators Insurance, s.t.

66. Jonathan Page (USA), Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Pro Cycling Team, at 26:08

67. Timothy Duggan (USA), TIAA-CREF, s.t.

68. Cory Lange (Can), Symmetrics, s.t.

69. Andrew Pinfold (Can), Symmetrics, s.t.

70. Svein Tuft (Can), Symmetrics, s.t.

71. Caleb Manion (Aus), Jelly Belly-PoolGel, s.t.

72. Alessandro Maserati (I), Team L.P.R., s.t.

73. David O'Loughlin (IRL), Navigators Insurance, s.t.

74. Cyril Lemoine (F), Credit Agricole, at 26:18

75. John Lieswyn (USA), Health Net-Maxxis, at 26:22

76. Gordon Fraser (Can), Health Net-Maxxis, at 26:25

77. Gregory Henderson (NZl), Health Net-Maxxis, s.t.

78. Derek Wilkerson (USA), Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Pro Cycling Team, s.t.

79. Danilo Napolitano (I), Team L.P.R., at 26:34

80. Mike Sayers (USA), Health Net-Maxxis, s.t.

81. Chris MÜller , CSC, (G), CSC, at 27:28

82. Robert Hunter (RSA), Phonak, at 29:00

83. Clerc Aurélien (Swi), Phonak, at 29:50

Overall (after 5 of 6 stages)

1. Tom Danielson (USA), Discovery Channel, at 21:54:44

2. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Gerolsteiner, at 0:04

3. Floyd Landis (USA), Phonak, at 0:09

4. Bobby Julich (USA), CSC, at 1:10

5. Lance Armstrong (USA), Discovery Channel, at 1:41

6. David Zabriskie (USA), CSC, at 3:04

7. Marco Pinotti (I), Saunier Duval, at 3:11

8. Nathan O'Neill (Aus), Navigators Insurance, at 3:14

9. Michael Blaudzun (Dk), CSC, at 3:51

10. Azevedo José (P), Discovery Channel, at 3:58

11. Trent Lowe (Aus), Jittery Joe's Coffee, at 4:12

12. Christian Vande Velde (USA), CSC, at 4:19

13. Saul Raisin (USA), Credit Agricole, at 4:43

14. Justin England (USA), Health Net-Maxxis, at 6:45

15. Andy Schleck (Lux), CSC, at 6:54

16. Nicolas Fritsch (F), Saunier Duval, at 6:59

17. Brian Vandborg (Dk), CSC, at 8:19

18. Danny Pate (USA), Jelly Belly-PoolGel, at 8:59

19. Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus), Discovery Channel, at 11:01

20. Scott Moninger (USA), Health Net-Maxxis, at 11:58

21. Rubiera Vigil José Luis (Sp), Discovery Channel, at 13:06

22. David Canada Gracia (Sp), Saunier Duval, at 14:09

23. Daniele Contrini (I), Team L.P.R., at 14:27

24. Sven Krauss (G), Gerolsteiner, at 14:37

25. Mauro Santambrogio (I), Team L.P.R., at 15:33

26. Jason McCartney (USA), Discovery Channel, at 16:40

27. Christopher Baldwin (USA), Navigators Insurance, at 19:58

28. Dominique Perras (Can), Ofoto-Sierra Nevada Professional Cycling, at 20:10

29. Michele Maccanti (I), Team L.P.R., at 20:50

30. Cobo Acebo Juan Jose (Sp), Saunier Duval, at 20:53

31. Geoff Kabush (Can), Jittery Joe's Coffee, at 21:53

32. Chris Wherry (USA), Health Net-Maxxis, at 22:50

33. Michael Lange (USA), TIAA-CREF, at 23:20

34. Manuel Quinziato (I), Saunier Duval, at 26:13

35. Mads Kaggestad (Nor), Credit Agricole, at 27:44

36. Matthias Russ (G), Gerolsteiner, at 29:27

37. Phil Zajicek (USA), Navigators Insurance, at 29:36

38. Tomasz Nose (SLO), Phonak, at 31:38

39. Sébastien Portal (F), Credit Agricole, at 32:15

40. Matthew Rice (Aus), Jelly Belly-PoolGel, at 32:24

41. Daniele Masolino (I), Team L.P.R., at 32:47

42. Jacob Erker (Can), Symmetrics, at 34:17

43. Elia Aggiano (I), Team L.P.R., at 34:49

44. Davide Frattini (I), Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Pro Cycling Team, at 35:09

45. Eric Wohlberg (Can), Symmetrics, at 38:32

46. Michael Rich (G), Gerolsteiner, at 40:11

47. Brice Jones (USA), Jelly Belly-PoolGel, 4 at 0:28

48. Peter Wrolich (A), Gerolsteiner, at 40:42

49. Timothy Johnson (USA), Jittery Joe's Coffee, at 40:53

50. Jackson Stewart (USA), Ofoto-Sierra Nevada Professional Cycling, at 42:32

51. Ivan Fanelli (I), Team L.P.R., at 43:06

52. Lars Ytting Bak (Dk), CSC, at 45:34

53. Nick Waite (USA), U-23 National Team, at 45:47

54. Craig Lewis (USA), TIAA-CREF, at 46:46

55. Chris MÜller , Team CSC, (G), CSC, 4 at 7:01

56. Andrea Tafi (I), Saunier Duval, at 47:21

57. Niki Aebersold (Swi), Phonak, at 49:14

58. David O'Loughlin (IRL), Navigators Insurance, at 49:30

59. Timothy Duggan (USA), TIAA-CREF, at 49:48

60. Jeremy Powers (USA), Jelly Belly-PoolGel, at 50:15

61. Geoffroy Lequatre (F), Credit Agricole, at 50:29

62. Gregory Henderson (NZl), Health Net-Maxxis, at 50:35

63. John Devine (USA), U-23 National Team, at 50:52

64. Caleb Manion (Aus), Jelly Belly-PoolGel, at 50:53

65. Cory Lange (Can), Symmetrics, at 51:42

66. Sascha Urweider (Swi), Phonak, at 51:51

67. Cesar Augusto Grajales (Col), Navigators Insurance, at 53:58

68. John Lieswyn (USA), Health Net-Maxxis, 54:45

69. Robert Hunter (RSA), Phonak, 55:10

70. René Haselbacher (A), Gerolsteiner, 55:34

71. Svein Tuft (Can), Symmetrics, 1:01:17

72. Gordon Fraser (Can), Health Net-Maxxis, 1:02:32

73. Aaron Olsen (USA), Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Pro Cycling Team, 1:03:16

74. Cyril Lemoine (F), Credit Agricole, at 1:03:52

75. Alessandro Maserati (I), Team L.P.R., at 1:04:48

76. Mike Sayers (USA), Health Net-Maxxis, at 1:04:53

77. Vassili Davidenko (Rus), Navigators Insurance, at 1:04:54

78. Danilo Napolitano (I), Team L.P.R., at 1:05:31

79. Clerc Aurélien (Swi), Phonak, at 1:07:12

80. Andy Guptill (USA), U-23 National Team, at 1:08:15

81. Andrew Pinfold (Can), Symmetrics, at 1:08:21

82. Derek Wilkerson (USA), Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Pro Cycling Team, at 1:11:11

83. Jonathan Page (USA), Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Pro Cycling Team, at 1:16:36