Originally created 02/03/05

Tour de Georgia's route starts in Garden City



Augusta's on-and-off again relationship with the Dodge Tour de Georgia cycling event is back on.

A year after not holding the race because of Lance Armstrong's participation, the city is back in the organization's good graces. Augusta will play host to the start of the six-stage, six-day race April 19.

Organizers officially announced the race route at a news conference Wednesday.

"(First) is where we want to be," Greater Augusta Sports Council Executive Director Tammy Stout said. "We're fortunate to get what we want for once.

"This is the most desirable position on the route. You get a lot of attention being first."

The Tour de Georgia began two years ago in Augusta after a time trial in Savannah. The city was excluded from the race last year after Armstrong, the six-time Tour de France champion, decided to ride.

Armstrong wanted a strenuous test before competing in July's Tour de France. Tour de Georgia organizers set up a mountainous trek, bypassing Augusta.

"Unfortunately last year," Stout said, "they had to include more aggressive terrain."

Armstrong, winner of the 2004 Tour de Georgia, might have saved the event, bringing along sponsors who otherwise would not have signed up.

However, there's no word whether Armstong will ride in this year's race.

Armstrong heads the 28-member Discovery Channel team. He formerly rode for the U.S. Postal Service team, which dropped its sponsorship deal.

"His participation is huge," Stout said. "But I think the event is established. With or without Lance, it's going to be an incredible event."

On the first stage of the Tour de Georgia, cyclists will ride 136 miles from downtown Augusta into Macon.

Teams will then transfer to Fayetteville before beginning Stage Two, which runs to Rome. The event then winds through Dalton to Dahlonega, Gainesville, Brasstown Bald and Blairsville before ending in Alpharetta.

Stout said the Greater Augusta Sports Council is seeking sponsors and volunteers to help.

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.