Sprinter Fred Rodriguez (USA) of Davitamon-Lotto out-sprinted a field of 40 riders to strike it rich for his second mountain stage victory in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /?>Georgia in four years, today winning Stage Four in Dahlonega, site of the first gold rush in America. Italian Matteo Tosatto of Quick Step-Innergetic finished second in the ? GoldCity?, followed by third place Yaroslav Popovych ( Ukraine) of Discovery Channel. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /?>
Stage Four today covered 118.9 miles/ 191.4 km from Dalton to Dahlonega, beginning with overcast skies, fog and rain. Rodriguez, who finished with a time of 04:49:29, won on a similar stage that covered hilly terrain from Dalton to Gainesville in 2003.
Floyd Landis (USA) of Phonak Hearing Systems - iShares finished in the lead group and retained the Ford Overall Leader jersey. The United Community Bank King of the Mountain jersey now sits on the back of 22-year-old Lucas Euser (USA) of Team TIAA-CREF, who won the first two climbs of the day at FortMountain and Hicks Gap.
"We went in to today, thinking (the) one jersey we had a good chance of getting was the (United Community Bank) KOM. I was told it was my job to be in the breakaway. I had a teammate leading out on the first KOM, and I got that. After that we just kept rolling,? said Euser. "The mountains here in Georgia are definitely real mountains. I've never done this race, so I wasn't expecting such a big climb at the beginning.?
American Jason McCartney of Discovery Channel, who won this same stage in 2005 with a long solo break, tried to escape again in the mountains, and this time came away with the Aaron?s Most Aggressive Rider jersey. Janez Brajkovic ( Slovenia) of Discovery Channel retained the GE Best Young Rider jersey. Rodriguez continues to wear the MAXXIS Sprint Leader jersey for a fourth consecutive day.
The start was notable today for special recognition of Dalton native and Credit Agricole rider Saul Raisin, who is in France recovering from injuries sustained in a crash earlier this month. The professional cyclists placed green tape on their handlebars to show support for their fellow competitor, and thousands of spectators wore green ribbons (the color of Raisin?s team jersey) showing love and support for their hometown hero.
"Saul has turned into a world class rider. He's a great ambassador for the city of Dalton. He graduated from DaltonHigh School , and he's a very popular young man. Everybody is praying for him and praying for his recovery," Dalton Mayor Ray Lerod said at the start of the race today.
Stage Five will take place in the mountains of north Georgia, starting at 11:30 a.m. in Blairsville, GA in TownsCounty. The race will span 94.5 miles / 152.1 km with United Community Bank climbs over Hogpen Gap (Category 1), Union Gap (Category 2) and ending on top of BrasstownBaldMountain (Hors Category) in UnionCounty. The first riders are expected to finish