Words Contributed by Jordan Cheyne, Pics PhotoSport International
The Prologue: Edmonton
The inaugural Tour of Alberta rolled down the start ramp on Tuesday night with a fast and technical 7.3km prologue through downtown Edmonton. The round trip course began in picturesque Winston Churchill Square, plummeted downhill to a flat section along the Saskatchewan River then roared back up through a 1.2km KOM climb past the Alberta Legislature and back to the finish line.
The early best time of 8:42 set by Tomas Ludvigson of Argos Shimano seemed shockingly fast as even strong time triallists struggled to come in under 9:00 minutes. Towards the end of the night though the Tour’s top class of riders began to shine through. First, Garmin’s Rohan Dennis shaved just one second off Ludvigson’s best time to claim the hot seat. BMC’s Brent Bookwalter and Cadel Evans came close eventually settling into 5th and 4th place while Optum’s Chad Haga was the fastest domestic pro in 6th.
Cadel Evans put in a great ride which was good enough for 4th place on the day.
But then a certain Peter Sagan screamed through the line in a stunning 8:28, taking the lead by a massive 13 seconds. Ryder Hesjedal finished the night off soon after and with a huge wave of crowd support managed to squeeze inside the top 10. Sagan owned the night to take his 20th win of the season for Cannondale Pro Cycling and left others wondering how to beat the Slovakian superstar.
Rob Britton of the Canadian National Team rode a great Prologue to place 23rd and is now looking forward to a battle for the overall and the Top Canadian prize. Still he had reservations about challenging Sagan’s dominance:
“Sagan will be a hard guy to beat! That guy is a cloud or two above the rest of the field…but you can expect to see us (The Canadian National Team) in the breakaway most days (this week).”
Kris Dahl, a 21 year-old Calgary native riding for Smart Stop p/b Mountain Khakis found himself in the surreal situation of starting in the final 5 riders in the prologue, commenting:
“It was an awesome experience sitting in the start area with Sagan and Evans on either side and across from Ryder Hesjedal, it was hugely motivational. There were tons of people cheering me one, everyone there was stoked on cycling, which is awesome to see”
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:08:28
2 Rohan Dennis (Aus) Team Garmin-Sharp 0:00:13
3 Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Team Argos-Shimano 0:00:14
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:20
5 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:21
6 Chad Haga (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies 0:00:23
7 Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica GreenEdge 0:00:29
8 David Zabriskie (USA) Team Garmin-Sharp 0:00:30
9 Tom Zirbel (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies
10 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Team Garmin-Sharp
11 Patrick Gretsch (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano
12 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:31
13 Benjamin Day (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling 0:00:32
14 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:00:33
15 David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Sharp 0:00:34
Stage One: Strathcona County to Camrose
The first road stage of the Tour of Alberta was a 158km drag race through many of Alberta’s scenic townships and finished with 3, 3.1km circuits around the finishing city of Camrose. After 40km of full-stick racing on the flats a break of four got away consisting of Jeremy Vennel (Bissell), Jeremy Powers (Jelly Belly), Marc Goos (Belkin) and William Clarke of Argos Shimano. The group remained in front of the Cannondale led chase until the 2nd of the final circuits when a persistent Clarke was the last to be caught.
Top Canadian Ryder Hesjedal added some unintentional colour to the race when he sprinted out of the pack and gave a surprised two-armed salute as the pack went under the 1 lap to go sign. He quickly realized his gaffe and tried in vain to keep his gap on the pack.
Peter Sagan sits safely in the pack as the finish approaches.
Less than 3 kilometers later, the real final sprint was on and it was boldly led out by Optum’s Eric Young up the short, headwind finishing climb. This move proved to be premature though as Sagan swiftly moved up to Young’s wheel and sprinted past the tiring American to take the victory. Canadian rider Ryan Anderson, also of Optum claimed 4th while the overall remained mostly unchanged. Sagan’s win propelled him into the Tour’s first Sprint Classification jersey and he stayed only a single point back from KOM leader Jelte-Slagter.
For Canadian National Team Rider Derrick St. John the first road stage was an introduction to the raw speed of the ProTour. He commented:
“Today’s stage was very fast in the first hour (more than 54kmh) but it was the race was very organized the whole day. The physical strain wasn’t exceptionally high but the mental focus required at such high speeds is very taxing. Its like being a dog on a leash, you are just forced to go as fast as they want to”
Stage 1 Results:
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling 3:22:17
2 Eric Young (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies
3 Moreno Hofland (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
4 Ryan Anderson (Can) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies
5 Luka Mezgec (Slo) Team Argos-Shimano
6 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team
7 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Garmin-Sharp
8 Matthias Friedemann (Ger) Champion System Pro Cycling Team
9 Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Team Argos-Shimano
10 John Murphy (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team
11 Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
12 Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Orica-GreenEdge
13 Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica-GreenEdge
14 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team
15 Dennis Van Winden (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
Stage Two: Devon to Red Deer
The second stage of the Tour was another top speed, 53×11 affair beginning on the flats of Devon Township and heading at break neck speeds towards the hillier terrain outside Red Deer.
The early race was highlighted by continuous swarms of unsuccessful attacks and a notable rear puncture for race leader Peter Sagan. What made the puncture remarkable was Sagan’s reaction. After his service Sagan calmly remounted, took on a half dozen bottles from the team car and then zipped them up to his boys in the charging peleton without even a hint of strain. Even at just 23 years of age Sagan is pure class and composure, and evidently a team player too.
Just after the second sprint point young BMC stagaire Sylvan Dillier jumped clear and was joined by Jelly Belly’s Sergei Tvetcov. Cannondale and the rest of the bunch finally seemed satisfied with the break and allowed them to punch out a healthy lead of over 5 minutes.
Dillier and Tvetcov make their move.
As the race neared Red Deer at rapid speed it became evident that Sagan’s crew had miscalculated and were outgunned as the breakaway cruised . The strong duo kept a gap of over 4 minutes starting the KOM climb with 30km remaining and the anxious field blew apart on the windy slopes. Sagan was repeatedly isolated as the race’s top men attacked and was left with only one teammate going into the 3 circuits in Red Deer.
In the final lap Tvetcov and Dillier still had a 1:30 lead and looked poised to strip Sagan of his lead. Instead, nervous tactics and perhaps a lack of race radio led to a rapidly reduced gap. Dillier easily covered Tvetcov’s late attack and sprinted for the victory. Only 17 seconds later a resurgent Sagan peeled away from the pack to take 3rd place alone and claim yellow for another day.
National Team rider Derrick St. John spent the first 2 hours of stage 3 trying in vain to form a breakaway ahead of a peloton often exceeding 65kmh on flat roads. He said:
“Today we saw how chaotic a professional pack can be. It was so much less organized, there were just waves of attacks for 2 hours straight but it was too fast for anything to go. I tried to get in the break again but it took too much energy and I couldn’t cover everything. I was useless by the end.”
He went on to make a prediction about Friday’s stage:
“Tomorrow is going to be frigging hard! We have a long transfer, it is going to rain and will be an exposed and hilly 180km. It’s going to be different from the last two days but I am looking forward to it.”
Stage 2 Results:
1 Silvan Dillier (Swi) BMC Racing Team 3:32:47
2 Serghei Tvetcov (Mda) Jelly Belly p/b Kenda
3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:00:16
4 Aidis Kruopis (Ltu) Orica-GreenEdge 0:00:18
5 Luka Mezgec (Slo) Team Argos-Shimano
6 Nicolai Brochner (Den) Bissell Pro Cycling
7 Eric Young (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies
8 Travis McCabe (USA) Team SmartStop p/b Mountain Khakis
9 Dennis Van Winden (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
10 Jeremy Vennell (NZl) Bissell Pro Cycling
11 Ryan Anderson (Can) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies
12 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling
13 Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Team Argos-Shimano
14 Shane Kline (USA) Team SmartStop p/b Mountain Khakis
15 Robert Sweeting (USA) 5-hour Energy p/b Kenda
General Classification After Stage 2:
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling 7:03:34
2 Rohan Dennis (Aus) Garmin-Sharp 0:00:26
3 Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Team Argos-Shimano 0:00:28
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:36
5 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:37
6 Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica-GreenEdge 0:00:43
7 Patrick Gretsch (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano 0:00:44
8 Tom Zirbel (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies 0:00:46
9 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp
10 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:47
11 Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano 0:00:48
12 Chad Haga (USA) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies 0:00:49
13 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling
14 Silvan Dillier (Swi) BMC Racing Team 0:00:51
15 John Murphy (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team