Cyclists rip through state in Tour de Georgia - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Cyclists rip through state in Tour de Georgia

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Macon-  Pedaling down the streets of Macon, the cyclists make their first pass by the finish line crowd.

These are moments some people are here to see every year. "Every year that they've been here, I've been here," said Doreitha Evans.

"We came last year when he was, I think, 6 weeks old," said Heather McCroan, with her son Harrison.

Jack Murphy was there to see his son race. "Everybody likes the road conditions, the mountains," Murphy said. "It's just a beautiful location for riders all over the world."

But the next to last lap of Tuesday's stretch was a long way from the streets of South Georgia. "They only allow you a maximum of six days," said Stan Holm, executive director of the Tour de Georgia. "In order to be competitive and bring guys like Lance Armstrong to race here, we know we have to get to the mountains."

Armstrong won the race last year. The course was changed last year to include more mountain stages to convince him to compete in the race.

South Georgia could be on the course in the future because the race may be expanded into a ten or 15 day race. Holm said the objective is to get to all of Georgia eventually.

The sport of cycling isn't as popular in the United States as it is in other countries. But people's love of its equipment and riders is spreading.

South Africa's Robert Hunter won the first stage of the race Tuesday, but the people who lined the streets were here to see the man who's made yellow the most popular color in sports. There was no lack of Lance Fans anywhere on the streets of the city.

"It's a great opportunity to see Lance and to see our son race with Lance in his last Tour of Georgia," Murphy said.

"It's seeing something completely different," McCroan said. "People racing and, just, I don't' know, it's really exciting to watch them race by."

But to keep it going, Georgians should be lining the streets to watch as long as the wheels are rolling through the state.

The Tour de Georgia is helping the sport of cycling grow in the U.S. It's also great for our state's economy. Businesses in downtown Macon like the Off Broadway Delicatessen stay busy during the race.

Last year, more than 748,000 people watched the race. It brought in more than $70 million in six days. That's one reason the deli extended its hours today.

"I think anything to bring people to downtown Macon again. Macon is growing, people are living downtown again, so I think it's a good thing," said Owner Lisa Rosen.

The race runs through Sunday. The final stretch ends in Alpharetta.

posted by brannon.stewart@walb.com