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Young Australian joins the crucial 18-rider break on windy day in Canada, survives the split on the day's final climb and wins the final sprint to take over the leader's jersey from Sagan

Photo: Sirotti










07.09.2013 @ 00:57 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Rohan Dennis (Garmin) put himself in the perfect position to win the Tour of Alberta overall when the Australian won a 6-rider sprint on the third stage of the race to take both the stage win and the leader's jersey. Previous leader Peter Sagan (Cannondale) finished in the peloton which completely gave up on the windy day, and the Slovakian fell out of GC contention.


Rohan Dennis has given many indications of his big talents - most notable when he finished in the top 10 in the Criterium du Dauphiné - and now he finds himself in the position to possible win the inaugural edition of Canada's biggest stage race, the Tour of Alberta. The young Australian not only took the leader's jersey away from previous leader Peter Sagan, he also to a narrow stage win in a 6-rider sprint.


Strong crosswinds had completely ripped the race apart in the opening part but race leader Sagan was always well-positioned when the splits were made. However, he was unable to control the situation when 18 riders slipped clear at a time when most riders were on their knees.


Dennis made it into that move and when Robert Gesink (Belkin) brought the number of potential stage winners down to 6 with a fierce acceleration on the day's final climb, the Garmin rider remained in contention. He responded perfectly well to all late attacks and was content when the race was to be decided in a sprint. He was the rider who opened the battle by acceleration down the middle of the road and Brent Bookwalter (BMC) ran out of metres in his attempt to come around the fast Garmin rider.


The peloton completely gave up on their stage win and GC ambitions and Sagan rolled across the line with the main bunch, almost 17 minutes later than Dennis. Hence, the race will now be decided by the 18 riders who made it into today's break.


Dennis takes an 11-second lead over Bookwalter into tomorrow's 4th stage. The profile is slightly hillier than in recent days but the final climb is located almost 50km from the finish and so some kind of sprint is expected - if the wind doesn't blow the race apart.


A flat stage

The 169,8km 3rd stage of the race was mostly flat but contained two climbs in the final half. From the top of the final one, 40km still remained and they were mostly flat.


Antoine Duchesne (Canadian National Team) attacked from the gun and he was joined by Brent Bookwalter (BMC), Mark Renshaw (Belkin), Chad Beyer (Champion System), Aldo Ilesic (UnitedHealthCare), Michael Woods (Garneau) and Scott Zwizanski (Optum). With Bookwalter sitting in the top 10 on GC, that move was, however, too dangerous and so Garmin brought it back.


The peloton splits up

The riders were riding in a fierce crosswind and the peloton split into three big groups. Race leader Sagan had made it safely into the first group but the pace was kept high as the second group tried to come back. The junction was made and it appeared as the race might slow down a bit.


That didn't happen and the peloton once again blew to pieces in the crosswinds. Four big groups were created with yellow jersey Sagan and white jersey and 2nd overall Rohan Dennis (Garmin) both have made it into the first one. However, Ryder Hesjedal who wore the jersey for best Canadian rider, and 3rd placed Tobias Ludvigsson (Argos) were in the 2nd group that at one point was a minute behind the first one.


The break is formed

A chase was organized and when the riders turned into a section with headwind, the two groups merged. Francisco Mancebo (5-Hour) was quick to exploit a short lull to launch an attack and he drew along Bookwalter, Dennis, Patrick Gretsch (Argos-Shimano), Robert Gesink (Belkin), Damiano Caruso (Cannondale), Ryan Anderson (Optum), Matthias Friedemann (Champion System), Chris Jones (Unitedhealthcare), Jeremy Vennell (Bissell), Jakub Novak (BMC) and Steve Morabito (BMC) to form a strong 12-rider group. Steven Kruijswijk (Belkin), James Stemper (5-Hour), Robert Sweeting (5-Hour), Aidis Kruopis (Orica-GreenEDGE), Marcus Burghardt (BMC) and Alexander Cataford (Garneau) set off in pursuit and after a hard chase, they joined the front group.


Most of the big teams were represented in the front and so the peloton slowed down. Suddenly, the gap had grown to a massive 7 minutes. Dennis, Bookwalter, Gretsch and Gesink were all in the overall top 10 and Sagan's race lead was now under clear threat.


BMC well-represented

BMC had managed to put no less than 4 of their 8 riders into the break and so the American team was the main driving force in their quest to extend the gap. Dennis was the virtual leader but he had not teammates to support him while Caruso was just sitting on, protecting Sagan's race lead.


Dennis made a surprise attack but as Caruso was on his wheel, the break came back together. A little later Dennis beat Caruso and Anderson in the only intermediate sprint to pick up 3 important bonus seconds and edge slightly closer to Sagan on GC.


The peloton gives up

The gap was kept stable at around 6.30 for a long time as no team was willing to organize a chase but gradually the advantage started to grow and the peloton was content just to roll along at a gentle pace to the finish.


Just after the sprint, the riders started to climb the first categorized hill. 1km from the top, Gesink launched an attack and only Dennis and Bookwalter were able to respond. However, the group came back together on the descent.


BMC on the attack

With 54km to go, BMC tried to split things up in the crosswinds but as all main riders made the split, the front group slowed down and things came back together. Burghardt made an immediate counterattack and the German opened up a gap on his own.


The chase got organized and so the BMC rider was reeled in 5km further down the road, just when they hit the bottom of the final climb. Things almost came to a standstill as everybody was now looking at eah other.


The break splits up

Vennell made the first attack but had little success. Kruijswijk made the next move which was followed by an acceleration from Caruso but none of them had any success.


With less than 1km to the top, Gesink made a furious acceleration with Dennis, Caruso, Bookwalter, Gretsch and Morabito on his heel and those six riders opened a gap on their rivals. Gesink crested the summit in first position and there was an immediate agreement to keep this move going.


A chase group is formed

Anderson, Kruijswijk and Jones had been in pursuit but quickly, an 11-rider chase group got together with only Cataford missing out from the original break. However, the 6 escapees worked well together and despite the best effort from the three 5-Hour riders, the gap kept growing, ultimately reaching more than a minute.


The riders in the front group worked perfectly together until 18km remained when Morabito made a small attack. He had little success and so the riders once again started cooperating.


Game of cat and mouse

The collaboration worked perfectly until they passed the 5km to go banner when the game of cat and mouse started. Morabito launched the first attack and was countered by Caruso. None of  them got clear and the next attack from Morabito was similarly ill-fated.


Gretsch and Gesink both made attempts but with 2km to go, the two BMC riders decided that they wanted a sprint finish. Morabito rolled along on the front all the way to the 300m to go mark.


Dennis wins the sprint

That was when Dennis launched his sprint and the Australian went head to head with Bookwalter in a very close battle. The Garmin rider came out triumphant while Caruso narrowly held off Gretsch to take 3rd.


The pace had gone down inside the final 5 kilometres and so the chasers had approached rapidly, Kruopis winning the sprint for 7th just 9 seconds after Dennis had crossed the line. The main peloton finished their stage much later and Sagan had to give up on all hopes of winning the race.



1. Rohan Dennis 3.55.31

2. Brent Bookwalter

3. Damiano Caruso

4. Patrick Gretsch

5. Robert Gesink

6. Steve Morabito +0.01

7. Aidis Kruopis +0.09

8. Ryan Anderson

9. Marcus Burghardt

10. Jakub Novak


General classification:

1. Rohan Dennis 10.59.39

2. Brent Bookwalter +011

3. Patrick Gretsch +0.18

4. Robert Gesink +0.21

5. Damiano Caruso +0.23

6. Robert Sweeting +0.42

7. Ryan Anderson +0.44

8. Francisco Mancebo

9. Matthias Friedemann

10. Aidis Kruopis



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