The final stage of the 2008 Tour de Georgia kicks off at 1pm EDT.  The 10 laps around a 6.2 mile circuit in downtown Atlanta will be the battleground on which the winner of the 2008 Tour de Georgia is decided.

Team High Road’s Kanstantsin Siutsou enters the stage first in the overall, thanks to his surprise stage win on Brasstown Bald.  Trent Lowe, of Slipstream, is only 4″ back from Siutsou.  Astanta’s Levi Leipheimer is 14″ back.  Everyone else?  More than a minute back.  While the circuit isn’t exactly flat, it’s pretty hard to see how anyone outside of the top three will be able to get into the mix tomorrow.

Hit the jump for the weather, terrain profile, and course map.

As I write this 30 miles north of Atlanta and a few hours before the race, the heavy rains of the morning are tapering off. The forecast calls for an even chance of thunderstorms for the rest of the day, so the weather certainly looms as a factor. And it may be a factor not just as part of the general misery of the riders, but it will change the nature of the course itself (the blue lines on the map). Let’s take a look at the course:


Those are a lot of right angles, eh? While a couple of these turns take place on concrete (which is a bit less slippery in the rain), most of these turns are on your typical oily city streets. Last year, these streets were pretty cruel to the riders, with debris-caused flats ruining more than one breakaway. Now add the danger of slick corners, and this could be a rather technical day of racing.

The race starts at Centennial Park (lower left hand corner) and moves counterclockwise through the city. The race takes a hard left shortly after the start line, passing through a small residential area of downtown and onto Auburn Avenue toward the east side of the city. After moving through the Auburn area, the race turns back downtown, up West Peachtree (yes, one of the many Peachtrees), across the freeway and onto the campus of Georgia Tech. From there, it’s a long and straight shot to the finish line.

Long and straight, but not really flat. And the “not really” part will count in what may turn out to be a big sprint finish today, where the rise will put a hurt on anyone not ready for it:

The final sprint at the 2007 Tour de Georgia (click to view larger image):

The opening of the race takes place in a park associated with the city’s recent past – Centennial Olympic Park, the center of the social life of Atlanta’s “most exceptional” 1996 Olympic Games. The peloton immediately passes through the Fairlie-Poplar neighborhood – my old hood! – and then onto a road with much more history. The racers take a short pull on Auburn Avenue, the main street of what the center of southern black urban cultural and business life in the 1920s and 30s – Sweet Auburn. It’s now a shadow of its former self, but with the MLK, Jr. Center for Nonviolence as its anchor, the area has been slowly coming back to being a lively part of the city.

The Georgia Tech section should draw a lot of students, who – because it’s Georgia Tech – were probably not out partying last night and needing to rest into the afternoon. Georgia Tech is, well, for what may be kindly described as the technical types.

Which brings us to today’s first musical selection. Downtown Atlanta is many things, including home to two major university campuses, that of Georgia Stage University and Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech is famous for its technical prowess, paucity of women, and a special strain of GT student that decides the Tech part of Georgia Tech is too much for them (but can’t bring themselves to leave GT). So what do they do? They take the M-Train (M is for Management).

On a more serious musical note, Atlanta is about as rich as it gets. The talent also spans across genre and culture, from Gladys Knight to the Black Crowes to the Indigo Girls. And it’s from this stew of influences that what I consider Atlanta’s most representative musical act comes – Outkast. You may know them only as rap duo, or the purveyors of an inescapable pop hit a couple of years ago, but they’re much much more. So today’s tune is B.O.B. – a genre bending blast of music that will get most anyone pumped for a sprint finish.

Allez, y’all.

– originally posted to