PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
Peter Wrolich (Gerolsteiner) won the bunch sprint finish to Wednesday's second stage of the Dodge Tour de Georgia, beating Prodir-Saunier Duval's Manuel Quinziato and Lance Armstrong (Discovery Channel), but couldn't quite do enough to wrest the overall leader's jersey from Robert Hunter's (Phonak) shoulders, with the two riders now sharing the same overall time.
With temperatures reaching 30 degrees centigrade (86 degrees Fahrenheit), it was another hot day for the riders as they rolled out of Fayetteville, where huge crowds had gathered to grab a glimpse of Armstrong, with banners and t-shirts sported by the roadside fans set to welcome him wherever he goes this week.
Worries that the peloton would again take things as easy as the previous day's stage were soon dissipated with no attacks allowed to get very far. That was until Prodir-Saunier Duval veteran Andrea Tafi attacked alone with 85km under the tyres. The Italian, who is set to retire after this race, having ridden his last European race at Paris-Roubaix on April 10 (see separate story), was allowed to build up a lead of almost six minutes, and still with an advantage of nearly five minutes with just 20km left to race, it looked like the former Roubaix winner might get himself just one more win.
However, the chase was on as the field approached Rome and its 4km finish circuit, and crossing the line with three laps to complete, Tafi's lead had been sliced to just 20 seconds. A lap later, and it was all over, with almost the entire Discovery Channel team coming to the front of the race. "Coming up the last hill, though, Lance was alone," explained stage winner Wrolich. "[Team-mate] Levi Leipheimer was with me at the front, and when he attacked with 350 metres to go, and Lance jumped on his wheel, it was easier for me to follow."
"I felt good - really good," Armstrong said at the finish. "I haven't had any difficult tests yet this season, but it's not as if I'm disappointed with third here today." Armstrong now lies fifth overall heading into Thursday's 29.9km individual time trial around Rome, after which the overall lead is likely to change once again. Strong time triallists Bobby Julich (CSC) and Leipheimer are both just 10 seconds down on Hunter, and another danger man will be Jelly Belly-Pool Gel's Danny Pate, former under-23 time trial world champion, also 10 seconds down on the overall classification.
Stage 2, Fayetteville - Rome
1 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner 197.5km in 4.46.29
2 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Prodir-Saunier Duval
3 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel
4 Ivan Fanelli (Ita) LPR
5 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC 0.01
General classification 1 Robert Hunter (SA) Phonak 10.34.11
2 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner
3 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Prodir-Saunier Duval 0.04
4 Ben Brooks (Aus) Jelly Belly-Pool Gel
5 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 0.06