A couple of years ago, I passed a quarter-century milestone. I reported on my first bicycle race in 1981, the Nevada City Classic. Greg LeMond won the race for the third straight year. I didn’t know much about cycling, but I liked LeMond, I liked what I watched. I’ve stayed with the sport.
And since 1986, five years after I started reporting on the sport, I’ve covered at least one stage race every year — the Coors Classic, the Ore-Ida Women’s Challenge, the Tour DuPont, the Tour de Trump, Tour of California, Tour of Missouri and the Tour de France.
Many of the races are now a blur. But as I’ve said for the past several years, the travel component of cycling is still appealing. It’s driving through small towns, meeting people and seeing familiar faces in pressrooms that make the races worth it.
In the past several years, I’ve also had the opportunity to test drive cars during events like the Tour de California, Tour of Missouri and for the second year, the recently completed Tour de Georgia.
This year’s race began in Tybee Island, Ga., and concluded seven days later in Atlanta. I drove a 2008 Kia Optima, start to finish. The media can travel on the same route as the cyclists or on alternate routes in order to work early and be firmly situated when the cyclists arrive.
Most often, I take the latter route, and I did so during the Tour de Georgia. On interstates, four-lane highways and country roads, I drove the four-door sedan Optima slightly less than 1,100 miles. (I’ll review the Optima soon.)
With the exception of the steep climb to Brasstown Bald Mountain, (the highest point in Georgia at 4,783 feet) when many other cars also trained negotiating the steep, switchback climbs, the Kia handled the week’s task well.
As I mentioned, bike races are sometimes indistinguishable. It’s the open road, small towns, like Dahlonega and Hiawassee at the Tour de Georgia, that always make the journeys worthwhile.
For the past two years, the race entourage has stayed at Ramada Lake Chatuge Lodge in Hiawassee. I took these images from my hotel room the morning I left for Atlanta.
If the Tour de Georgia ever returns to either city, count me in.
Article Last Updated: April 30, 2009.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.