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Benefiting from the battle between Yates and Mollema, Slagter followed wheels for most of the Tour of Alberta queen stage before he accelerated with 150m to go to take the win; Mollema finished second and defended the lead

Photo: Sirotti

BAUKE MOLLEMA

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TOM-JELTE SLAGTER

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TOUR OF ALBERTA

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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05.09.2015 @ 23:12 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale-Garmin) proved that he has hit peak condition in time for the Canadian WorldTour races when he made two in a row in the Tour of Alberta by winning the queen stage. Profiting from the big battle for the overall win between Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Bauke Mollema (Trek), he followed wheels for most of the final climb until he accelerated with 150m to go to take a solo win. Mollema finished second and so extended his overall lead.

 

The 2015 season has been a tough one for Tom-Jelte Slagter who never hit peak condition for the Giro d’Italia and the Ardennes classics. However, it seems that his legs have finally come around and he has proved to be the strongest rider in the Tour of Alberta.

 

Yesterday Slagter proved the good form he had shown in the Eneco Tour by taking an impressive win in the first ever summit finish of the Canadian race. Today he made it two in a row when he also came out on top in the queen stage.

 

At the bottom of the final 12km climb, Logan Owen (Axeon), Thomas Vaubourzeix (Lupus) and Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon 18) had a 1-minute advantage after a long day in the break. Trek had been setting the pace for most of the stage but as they hit the climb, it was the Hincapie team that had taken over.

 

As the gap was down to 45 seconds and the break was within sight of the peloton, Owen launched the first attack but he was unable to get rid of his companions. In the peloton, Optum had taken control with Canadian champion Guillaume Boivin as riders started to get dropped.

 

Vaubourzeix was the next to try an attack from the breakaway but he had no luck either. Meanwhile, Trek had again taken control of the peloton and it was Jesse Sergent who made things hard for Bauke Mollema’s rivals.

 

With 10km to go, the gap was down to just 15 seconds and the relentless Vaubourzeix tried again. Owen responded but Thwaites had had enough and decided to sit up.

 

Owen countered the move and this time Vaubourzeix was unable to respond, quickly dropping back to the peloton. The strong American managed to increase his advantage to 15 seconds.

 

The attacking started in the peloton when local hero Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin) took off and he quickly bridged the gap to Owen. That acceleration was too much for Sergent and Hayden Roulston who both swung off after the latter had not taken a single turn.

 

Matthew Busche took over the pace-setting for Trek and the peloton was exploding, quickly reduced to 30 riders. Busche’s work was enough to bring the two escapees back and instead Alexandr Braico (Jelly Belly) took off.

 

Hesjedal joined the Romanian rider before team leader Lachlan Morton bridged the gap to the 2012 Giro winner and his teammate. The American went straight to the front and only Hesjedal could keep up with him.

 

Morton was riding strongly and dropped Hesjedal who fell back to the peloton which was still led by Busche as they entered the final 7km. He stayed a few seconds ahead for more than a kilometre before he started to lose ground.

 

With 5.5km to go, he was caught and this was the signal for Simon Spilak (atusha) to take off. Hesjedal tried to join him but had to surrender while the Slovenian pressed on.

 

Laurent Didier made a big surge for Trek to bring Spilak back before he swung off and left Bauke Mollema isolated in the main group that had exploded. The Dutchman had to close the final bit of the gap himself and then slowed down which allowed a regrouping to take place.

 

Sven Erik Bystrøm (Katusha) was quick to exploit the situation to take off while Nathan Brown (Cannondale-Garmin) tried to bridge the gap. He quickly got a big advantage before Orica-GreenEDGE started to chase hard with Michael Matthews.

 

The fast pace by the Australians kept the gap at around 10 seconds and with 3km to go, a Hincapie rider tried to attack. Ilnur Zakarin shut it down immediately but Brown had been brought back.

 

Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Garmin) was the next to try but he never got a gap and instead he just brought Bystrøm back by riding on the front. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) went straight to the front and only Mollema and Sergey Lagutin (Katusha) could keep up with him.

 

Mollema started to rider on the front but Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale-Garmin) brought it back together. Spilak and Formolo were next to try but Mollema managed to shut it down again.

 

With 2km to go, Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Zakarin took off but they never really got a gap and so Meier started to ride tempo to set Adam Yates up for the win. Riders were gradually sent out the back door as Spilak and Zakarin were among the riders to lose contact.

 

Meier, Mike Woods (Optum), Lagutin, Formolo, Evan Huffman (Smartstop), Yates, Slagter, Mollema, Dion Smith, Toms Skujins (Hincapie), James Oram (Axeon) and Tobias Ludvigsson (Giatn-Alpecin) were the only survivors when they passed the flamme rouge. Here Yates launched his expected attack and he immediately got an advantage.

 

Mollema chased hard and only Lagutin, Slagter and Smith could match him. They gradually got closer to the Australian while Lagutin cracked with 500m to go.

 

Mollema made a big acceleration which was too much for Smith and finally he made it up to Yates with 200m to go. Slagter was glued to his wheel and so in a perfect position to strike. When he accelerated 150m from the finish, he got an immediate gap and had time to celebrate his win as he crossed the line.

 

Mollema and Yates crossed the line 4 seconds later and so Mollema extended his overall lead over Yates to 8 seconds. Slagter moves into third but after the bad team time trial he is still 22 seconds behind.

 

Mollema will try to defend his lead in tomorrow’s penultimate stage which will bring the riders back into flatter terrain. Stage five is a long, gradual downhill run over 206km and while there are no elevation differences, the challenge will come from the dirt road sectors that total 18.5km over four sectors. This will challenge the climbers and offer the stronger guys a chance to shine.

 

The queen stage

After yesterday’s first summit finish, it was time for the queen stage which brought the riders over 162.1km from the town of Jasoer to a mountaintop finish at the Marmot Basin Ski Area. Most of the stage consisted of 3 laps of relatively flat circuit in the Jasper National Park before the riders hit the bottom of the final 12km climb.

 

After two days in cold conditions, the riders were greeted by sunshine when they rolled out for their neutral ride. They got the race off to its usual aggressive start and there were lots of attacks before Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon 18), Thomas Vaubourzeix (Lupus) and Logan Owen (Axeon) managed to get clear.

 

Trek take control

The trio had an advantage of 2.35 at the 25km mark but as the peloton was keen on catching their breath after the fast start, it had gone out to 5.30 five kilometres later. That was the signal for Trek to take control and they put Kristof Vandewalle and Marco Coledan on the front.

 

The pair of time triallists worked strongly to slowly reduce their deficit. At the 44km mark, it was 4.25 and it was only 3.20 after 50km of racing. As they started the second lap of the circuit, it was 3.45 and it was again down to 3.15 with 70km to go.

 

Coledan and Vandewalle spend a long day on the front

Not much happened for most of the stage as Coledan and Vandewalle just set a steady pace to keep the gap around the 3-minute mark. Meanwhile, the riders took the opportunity to enjoy the better conditions and the sunshine.

 

With 30km to go, the gap was still 3 minutes and this was the signal for Vandewalle and Coledan to up the pace. With an injection of speed, they had brought the gap down to 2.10 as they entered the final 20km.

 

With 15km to go, it was only 1.45 and now Hincapie made a bit surge. The continental team took over the pace-setting and after Coledan had taken one final turn, they led the peloton onto the final climb where the action unfolded.

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