PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
Gord Fraser (Health Net-Maxxis) got the stage win he was chasing at the Tour de Georgia, taking the final stage into Alpharetta, near Atlanta, in front of an estimated 100,000 spectators. Climber Tom Danielson (Discovery Channel) finished safely in the bunch to take victory in the general classification having taken the lead in the previous day's mountain stage, beating Gerolsteiner's Levi Leipheimer and Floyd Landis (Phonak) - the first six positions being filled by American riders.
Sickness had prevented Canadian national road champion Fraser from performing at his sprinting-best earlier in the week, with younger team-mate Greg Henderson taking on fast-finisher duty, doing a consistently good enough job of it to wind up with the jersey of best sprinter - the jersey won by Fraser in 2004, along with two stage wins.
"It's great to be able to prove yourself against top-level competition," 36-year-old Fraser said, "and the race has been really good for the team - taking this stage and winning the sprint jersey."
Andrea Tafi (Prodir-Saunier Duval) signed off from professional racing, earning himself the day's prize as most aggressive rider after instigating a four-man breakaway half-way through the 201.5km stage. But it was all back together as the peloton crossed the line with two laps of the six laps of the circuit left to race.
Health Net-Maxxis worked hard on the front to prepare Fraser and Henderson for the sprint, with Danielson and his Discovery team-mates also up there, keeping their man out of danger. The crowds, five-deep in places on the circuit, had for the most part come to catch a glimpse of Armstrong, but a huge cheer greeted his protg as he climbed the steps of the podium to receive his final leader's yellow jersey.
"Winning the Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia [in 2003] was amazing, but this ranks above that for a number of reasons," said Danielson. "I'm with a team which feels like home, and I'm very proud to get this result. I owe this win to so many people, but mainly to the team."
Danielson will now head to the Tour of Italy on May 7, full of confidence, but keen to play down any hopes of a high general classification finish. "I'm really excited for the Giro, but I've never done it before," said Danielson. "I'm very motivated for it, but the leader for the team is Paolo Savoldelli, and he's won it before. But I have good form to help him do a good race, and I'm very excited to go there and do a good race."
His first grand tour it may be, but one only has to look to another first-timer - 2004 Giro champion Damiano Cunego - to see what can happen. The USA expects.
Stage six, Blairsville - Alpharetta
1 Gord Fraser (Can) Health Net-Maxxis 201.5km in 4.59.00
2 Greg Henderson (NZ) Health Net-Maxxis
3 Aurelien Clerc (Swi) Phonak
4 Danilo Napolitano (Ita) LPR
5 Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra) Credit Agricole
6 Rene Haselbacher (Aut) Gerolsteiner
7 Christian Muller (Ger) CSC
8 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Saunier Duval
9 David O'Loughlin (Ire) Navigators
10 Christian Vandevelde (USA) CSC
22 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel
29 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel
1 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel 26.53.44
2 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 0.04
3 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 0.09
4 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC 1.10
5 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 1.41
6 David Zabriskie (USA) CSC 3.04
7 Marco Pinotti (Ita) Saunier Duval 3.11
8 Nathan O'Neill (Aus) Navigators 3.14
9 Michael Blaudzun (Den) CSC 3.51
10 Jose Azevedo (Por) Discovery Channel 3.58
Mountains: Jose Luis Rubiera (Spa) Discovery Channel
Sprints: Greg Henderson (NZ) Health Net-Maxxis
Young rider: Trent Lowe (Aus) Jittery Joe's-Kalahari
Team: Discovery Channel