Thomson cycling fans will have a front row seat as the first stage of the Tour de Georgia zips through the area Tuesday, April 19, on the way to Macon.
"It will be awesome to watch," said Bill Jopling, an avid follower of the sport who will be among the spectators. Dr. Jopling, who has been riding for more than 15 years and who participates each year in the Bike Ride Across Georgia, estimates the cyclists will be traveling 25-30 mph on their way through McDuffie County.
"They will just fly," he said.
The cyclists will come through McDuffie County starting at about 12:30 p.m. on the first day of the race that will end in Alpharetta five days later.
Traditionally, fans line the roads during high profile bicycle races like the Tour de Georgia, many hoping to get a glimpse of some of the top riders in the world.
"It ought to be a fantastic race this year with some really huge names in cycling, and to have it come through McDuffie County is just unbelievable," said cycling fan Steve Dwyer.
Foremost among the racers will be Lance Armstrong, six-time winner of the prestigious Tour de France and last year's Tour de Georgia champion.
"Not only do you have Lance Armstrong, but there's Bobby Julich - he's having a fantastic season - and Chris Horner, who came in third last year," said Mr. Dwyer who has biked some of the same routes the professionals will take on during the tour. Last year Dwyer even traveled to the majestic area of Brasstown Bald to watch the Tour de Georgia because he especially enjoys the competitive climbing stages of the race which are dominated by specialty riders hoping to capture the King of the Mountain title.
However, the stage through McDuffie County will be relatively flat, with sprint lines located in Harlem and in Warrenton which will give cyclists specializing in bursts of speed a chance to earn points toward the Sprint Jersey.
Cycling "is a lot more complicated than it sounds," Dr. Jopling said. It's a strategic team sport with riders specializing in different aspects. When they come through McDuffie County, they will probably be grouped together in a pack, or peloton.
"That cuts down on the air resistance, which is a major thing in cycling," Dr. Jopling said.
Before the sprints in Harlem and Warrenton, the riders will come side and side and sprint to earn points.
Riders will begin the race in Augusta at 11:30 a.m., and will enter Harlem on Wrightsboro Road between 12:23-12:32 p.m., according to estimate information from the Greater Augusta Sports Council. They will make a left turn onto N. Lousiville/Hwy. 221 from Wrightsboro Road, then will begin a sprint line at the Laurel and Hardy Museum.
There will be a right turn on Hwy 78/278 from 221, where riders will enter Dearing and McDuffie County between 12:28 and 12:38 p.m. They will proceed past 118, turning left onto Wire road from 78, then left onto Old Milledgeville Road from Wire Road between 12:47 and 12:57 p.m. They will pass Hwy 17 on Old Milledgeville Road and enter Warren County. There will be a sprint line at the Warrenton Court House, and riders will turn left onto Hwy. 16 and proceed toward Jewell's Mill, Culverton, Sparta, Devereux, Milledgeville and into Macon where the first day of the race ends.
The European-style stage race will cover 650 miles as it winds through the state, and will benefit the Georgia Cancer Coalition.