The sixth annual Tour de Georgia returns to Augusta with a new twist Tuesday afternoon.
For the first time, the weeklong event will hold a Stage 2 finish in the Garden City.
"The stage finish, you actually get to see the bicycle race," Greater Augusta Sports Council event manager Randy DuTeau said. "You get pure excitement just seeing the race come into town."
The 600-mile race begins Monday on Tybee Island with a 71.8-mile sprint, finishing in Savannah. On Tuesday, cyclists will begin the second stage in Statesboro at 11 a.m. They are expected to finish at the Augusta Common in downtown Augusta between 3:15-4 p.m.
Headlining the field are 15 professional teams, and star-studded racers such as USA Cycling Pro Road Champion Levi Leipheimer (Astana), three-time USA Cycling Road Champion George Hincapie (Team High Road), 2003 Tour de Georgia champion Chris Horner (Astana) and ProTour veteran Bobby Julich (Team CSC).
DuTeau believes Hincapie, a Greenville, S.C., resident, will be one of the favorites.
"He's undoubtedly one of the best sprinters in the world," DuTeau said.
Cyclists will arrive in downtown Augusta from Gordon Highway. They will take a left onto Walton Way and a right onto Fifth Street before heading to Reynolds Street. They will take a left and then make a right onto 13th Street and head into South Carolina for the first time in race history.
The Tour de Georgia will hold its first King of the Mountain in North Augusta. Cyclists will travel up Georgia Avenue and make a left onto Arlington Heights. After another left onto Carolina Avenue, the riders will head back to downtown Augusta. The racers will then return to North Augusta for another lap before finishing in front of the Augusta Common on Reynolds Street.
"Watching the field sprint is super exciting because you have 120 riders gunning for the finish at the same time," DuTeau said. "My prediction is the field in all likelihood is going to stay together."
DuTeau said cycling fans can watch the last two hours of live coverage on a big screen at the Augusta Common. There will be an awards ceremony, where the overall leader will get his jersey and the King of the Mountain winner will receive a jersey for best climber.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.