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Tour de Georgia coming to Statesboro
Jackie Tyson, left, tries out an interactive sculpture created by artist Jordan Phelps, right, in front of City Hall after Wednesday's press conference for the upcoming Tour de Georgia bicycle race.
    The Tour de Georgia is coming to Statesboro.
    One of the nations premiere cycling events will come through Bulloch County  April 22, showcasing some of the world's top cyclists and cycling teams.
    Statesboro is one of five cities making its debut as a Tour De Georgia site in 2008.
    "Bulloch County provides that large population base we were looking for," said Jackie Tyson, president of Peloton Sports, which is promoting the race. "It's very appealing."
    The Tour, which was started in 2003 and has featured Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, will begin Stage 2 of the race in downtown Statesboro and continue 115 miles to Augusta. Participants will begin at the corner of E. Main and Siebald, do a circuit lap at 20 mph, then take off down North Main and continue to Augusta via Highway 17.
    But the race isn't the only exciting part of the April 22 event – a Tuesday. The occasion brings a festival-like following, creating a huge boom for business and tourism.
    "It's a rolling festival," said Tyson during Wednesday's press conference at City Hall. "We have an entourage, we have an expo that goes with us, we have sponsors that bring plenty of activities for spectators to do — and a lot of local businesses will have plenty to offer spectators as well. It will be crazy."
    Activities will begin around 9 a.m. as the cyclists begin to arrive from their Savannah transfers. Fans will have an opportunity to get autographs when the cyclists walk "Autograph Alley" prior to signing in for the race.
    "We expect to have several events going on the entire day," said Sandy Hirsch-Kirkland, public relations director for the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We know the entourage that the Tour will be bringing will be anywhere from 500-700 people and we're encouraging all the local communities and families to help line the route."
    Last year's race saw 24 countries represented. Organizers are expecting 15 teams of 120 riders in this the fifth year of the Tour. Beginning on Tybee Island, the route ends in downtown Atlanta after rolling through Washington, Braselton, Gainesville, Suwanee, Dahlonega, Brasstown Bald and Blairsville.
    The event will benefit the Aflac Cancer Center and Blood Disorders Service of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta which serves children all over the state and the country. AT&T is this year's main sponsor.
    Statesboro Mayor Bill Hatcher, County Commissioner Jan Tankersley and Jenny Foss, president of the Statesboro Convention and Visitor's Bureau, also spoke at the conference, welcoming the Tour on behalf of the city.
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