ATLANTA --- After a year's absence, Augusta is back on the Tour de Georgia route.
The 2008 race will start in Tybee Island, head to Savannah, go to Augusta and work its way through the eastern part of the state, organizers announced Wednesday.
Augusta was part of the route in 2003, 2005 and 2006.
Augusta will be part of the second stage on April 22, which will start in Statesboro.
Augusta drew international attention when it was the site of legendary racer Lance Armstrong's 2005 news conference announcing his retirement.
"The international exposure is tremendous," said Barry White, president of the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau, adding that the timing after the Masters Tournament, makes a good one-two punch for the city's image.
The 2007 version of the 650-mile, week-long race drew 120 riders from 23 countries and thousands of fans. Organizers expect to do as well by the time the 2008 event concludes in downtown Atlanta April 27, aiming for at least 1 million spectators along the route.
The date of the race, which starts April 21, is timed to attract top riders looking for competition that will be a tune-up for the Tour de France in July.
"The Tour de Georgia is a race I love because of the amazing fans and how well it fits in with my racing schedule," said 2007 champion Janez Brajkovic, racing in 2008 for the Astana Pro Cycling Team.
While the beginning and ending points of each of the seven stages was announced Wednesday, the exact roads taken won't be known for two months, according to Chris Aronhalt, project director with Medalist Sports of Tyrone, Ga., the marketing company planning the event.
He said the trick is to find secondary roads that total the target mileage for each stage, keeping in mind rider safety, highway traffic considerations and challenging racing conditions.
Cities bid for the opportunity to play host to the start or completion of a stage. Recent races have meandered across the western part of the state because there were a cluster of cities there willing to play host.
This year, the route swings back to the East to include some first-time hosts, like Tybee Island.
Reach Walter Jones at email@example.com.
SETTING THE STAGE
Stage 1: April 21 -- Tybee Island to Savannah
Stage 2: April 22 -- Statesboro to Augusta
Stage 3: April 23 -- Washington to Gainesville
Stage 4: April 24 -- Road Atlanta/Braselton (team time trial)
Stage 5: April 25 -- Suwanee to Dahlonega
Stage 6: April 26 -- Blairsville to Brasstown Bald
Stage 7: April 27 -- Atlanta (circuit race)