Ever since I heard we were having a stage race locally I was excited. I've done full omniums, and that gives a very similar experience. But a big difference is guys will do a single race with fresh legs, and that makes it extra difficult for guys who have been racing for a day or two. Alternatively, omniums are nice if you can't commit an entire weekend to bike racing. So it's kind of a win/lose/win/win/lose sort of thing.
Regardless, Tour of the Southern Highlands, put on by Dingo Race Productions, was my first stage race. No day of registrations, if you didn't complete a stage or if you came in 25% less time than the stage winner you could not advance. There was a yellow jersey for the General Classification leader, a polka dot jersey for the KOM leader, and a green jersey for the Points leader. A proper stage race.
Tour of the Southern Highlands is the evolution of Gainesville Gran Prix, which was an omnium held for the past three years. It's known as a hilly race, and the Tour used the same Circuit and Road Race course as the GGP (though the first year had a different RR course).
The first stage was a Merckx style time trial. I like time trialing, but don't train TT on my road bike so I didn't do as well as I'd like - down by about 1:30 from the race leader. So my GC chances were pretty much over at that point, and anyway my main season goal is to get results to cat up.
Dingo always does a great job with TTs - they have an awesome ramp, the time is clearly visible from far away, the course is very well marked, including 1KM to go markers. For the road races the turns were very clearly marked and marshalled, with police at larger intersections, and 1KM, 500M and 200M distances were marked. There were generous barriers at the start/finish lines. These are the sorts of details that make all the difference in a race.
For stage two you had to sign in beforehand, as well as for stage three (but not register). So pro. Stage two was a circuit race with a climb in the middle of the lap, which generally breaks things up.
So we all warmed up, and then went to staging to wait for our race to start. And waited. And waited. This was the only hiccup in the entire event. Both the circuit race and road race started quite late. The Circuit race started about an hour late, and the road race started about an hour and 40 minutes late. Races are tough to put on, and considering that everything else went smoothly (and that generally most races end up running late it seems like), I'm chalking it up to a learning curve in putting on a stage race. If I have to wait a little bit in order to have a stage race in Georgia, I'm happy waiting.
Overall the competition was strong in all categories, the weather was excellent, and I had a great time. That said, here are some of the bikes, kit and racers from the races - enjoy!