Well, we’re heading into the third stage of the 2008 Tour de Georgia in pretty much the same condition we started the first stage. No one is yet building a claim to the overall GC. In fact, we’re still in the dark as to who some teams are turning to for their GC hopes. And the only clear favorite is waiting with quiet confidence at the back of the peloton. Against this background, the Tour de Georgia has thus far been a sprinter’s race, and don’t expect that to change for Stage Three.

Stage Three starts in the small town of Washington and heads north to Gainesville. This 109.7 mile (176.5 km) stage will mark start of the transition to the mountains of North Georgia, with this stage featuring a steady rise in elevation. Most of the ride will feature rural country highways until the peloton arrives in Gainesville for another circuit finish.

Stage Three Profile

The stage is scheduled to start at 11:00am and finish sometime between 3:00pm and 4:00pm. You can get the official terrain profile and map (as PDFs) or you can check out a composite from MapMyRide.com (provided in partnership with WCSN).

The stage will start with the the leader jerseys on the following riders:

  • AT&T Georgia Leader Jersey: Ivan Dominguez (CUB), Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team
  • Georgia Power Sprint Leader’s Jersey*: Greg Henderson (NZL), Team High Road
  • United Community Bank King of the Mountain: Frank Pipp (USA), HealthNet presented by Maxxis
  • GE Energy Best Young Rider Leader’s Jersey: Nicholas Saunderson (AUS), Jelly Belly Cycling Team
  • Georgia Lottery Most Aggressive Jersey: Rhys Pollock (AUS), GE Marco Polo presented by Trek
  • * Worn by Henderson due to Dominguez holding Leader jersey.

Stage Three will see the first appearance of the King of the Mountain Jersey, earned by Frank Pipp’s solo attack near the end of Stage Two. He’ll be getting a pretty good return on that investment, too. The next KOM points don’t appear until Friday, so he’ll be pulling that KOM jersey on for the next three days.

Rhys Pollock also brings some glory to the GE Marco Polo team, having snagged the Most Aggressive Rider Jersey for his efforts in bridging from the peloton up to Toyota-United’s Justin England. It’s a bit surprising, however, that this jersey didn’t go to England, who created the reason for Pollock’s efforts in the first place. (And it looks like I’m not the only one surprised by that.)
The sprinters will have three opportunities to earn sprint points at sprints lines in Comer (48 miles in), Ila (60 miles in), and Homer (80 miles in). The overall sprinter’s jersey is far from decided, so look for some animation at these points. Current sprint standings:

  1. Ivan Dominguez, Toyota-United, 25 Pts.
  2. Greg Henderson, Team High Road, 23 Pts.
  3. Tyler Farrar, Slipstream-Chipotle, 20 Pts.
  4. Jose Juan Jose, CSC, 15 Pts.
  5. Nicholas Sanderson (Aus), Jelly Belly, 15 Pts./Robert Forster (G), Gerolsteiner, 15 Pts.

Who to watch? Well, no riders have really shown their cards (aside from JJ Haedo, who has pretty well illustrated that he’s got his wrist under control). With it looking like another bunch sprint finish, one can only imagine that Dominguez would be quite happy to put his team in yellow for the next day’s team time trial. However, with the mountains approaching – where the big GC teams will almost certainly take control – tomorrow represents one of the last chances for some of the other domestic teams to make a statement. The top ten for the overall, at the moment:

  1. Ivan Dominguez, Toyota-United, 7:02:39
  2. Greg Henderson, Team High Road, +3″
  3. Juan Jose Haedo, CSC, +4″
  4. Nicholas Sanderson, Jelly Belly, +6″
  5. Tyler Farrar, Slipstream-Chipotle
  6. Robert Forster, Gerolsteiner, +10″
  7. Ivan Stevic, Toyota-United,
  8. Christian Meier, Symmetrics, +11″
  9. Scott Nydam, BMC, +13″
  10. Rhys Pollock, GE-Marco Polo

No musical talent to be showcased by this stage, but we do get a little bit of history. If there were actually video available showing the start in Washington, you’d see a town that has made quite an industry out of showing off its antebellum homes. Washington also hosted the last meeting of Jefferson Davis’ cabinet, at which the Confederacy was dissolved (a fact that surprised your correspondent, as I’ve been to this little monument to the Antebellum South before, and don’t recall seeing the dissolution of the Confederacy mentioned anywhere). Gainesville is probably best known as the biggest town on Lake Lanier, an enormous reservoir lake created in the mid 1950s. It’s long been a popular recreational area, but Lanier’s shores (and economy) have suffered from last year’s record drought, and the lake (and associated tourism) is still recovering.

Want to watch it live? Live video from WCSN will start at 12:00pm. Viewers outside of the US (and perhaps Canada – we’re not really sure what WCSN and Cycling.tv have agreed on regarding Canada’s being a part of the United States, it seems) should turn to Cycling.tv, where the coverage usually starts a little while after WCSN’s. The Tour Tracker should start its coverage when the race gets rolling at 11am.

– originally posted to PodiumCafe.com