They're considered the world's greatest cyclists, and for about 14 miles, they'll be rolling through Columbia County.
Though the 2006 Ford Tour de Georgia is without seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong this year, the race will bring with it a field of 15 teams representing more than 20 countries, according to the race's official Web site.
That international field will make its way through Harlem between 12:20 and 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.
"It does bring people in to watch the ride in to the city (and) we get exposure from the news media here filming," Harlem City Manager Jean Dove said.
Last year, city leaders estimated 3,500 people from Columbia County and across the Southeast lined the streets of Harlem to see the race, Dove said.
The event is a brief opportunity for the city to highlight its shops and the Oliver Hardy Museum, she said.
"The shops will be open and they, of course, welcome the visitors to come in," Dove said.
Opening ceremonies of the Tour de Georgia will get under way at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the corner of 11th and Broad streets in downtown Augusta.
The first stage of the six-stage race starts at 11:30 a.m., and riders will enter Columbia County just east of Grovetown on Wrightboro Road at about noon.
A few minutes later the race is scheduled to pass through Grovetown before entering downtown Harlem on North Louisville Street at about 12:24 p.m. The riders will proceed west down Gordon Highway and depart Columbia County at about 12:30 p.m. on their way to Macon to complete the 128.9 mile first stage, according to the Tour de Georgia Web site.
The 600-mile Tour de Georgia bills itself as North America's premier cycling event and is a precursor to the Tour de France. The tour, which ends next Sunday in the northern Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta, includes five other trials that showcase the north Georgia mountains and the piedmont.
With thousands of spectators, security and support staff expected for the race, drivers should expect delays and roadblocks along the race course, officials say. Harlem Department of Public Safety and the city's Public Works Department will handle traffic direction within Harlem's city limits, Dove said.
The Georgia Department of Transportation will implement "rolling roadblocks" along Wrightsboro Road through Grovetown, and North Louisville Street and Gordon Highway in Harlem during the race, according to a DOT news release. Motorists should seek alternate routes.
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