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In a surprisingly selective first stage, Joyce took the biggest win of his career by beating Howes and Carpenter in a 10-rider sprint; the American is the first leader of the race

Photo: Sirotti








02.09.2016 @ 03:24 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Colin Joyce continued Axeon’s impressive 2016 season when he emerged as a surprise winner on a hard and selective first stage of the Tour of Alberta. The American youngster made it into a 10-rider group that sprinted for the win and then held off Alex Howes (Cannondale) and Robin Carpenter (Holowesko) to take the victory and  become the first leader of the race.


For several year, Axel Merckx’s Axeon team has been known as one of the best places to be for young talents and several riders have graduated from the squad to the WorldTour ranks. However, they have reached new heights in 2016 as they have had a fantastic season with great showing in the pro races.


The team first showed itself at the Tour of California where young Neilson Powless was the revelation of the race and they did even better at the Tour of Utah where Adrien Costa finished second overall ahead of riders like Darwin Atapuma and Andrew Talansky. Today a new name emerged on the scene as Colin Joyce turned out to be the strongest in the first stage of the Tour of Alberta.


With a second place in stage 1 and another top 10 results, Joyce had already shown himself in Utah and today he got the final breakthrough when he beat all the WorldTour stars after a surprisingly hard race on the lumpy circuit that was used for the short opening stage. He was attentive when a big 29-rider group got clear on the second lap and even though he was isolated, he was still there when the group was whittled down to 11 riders. In the end, 10 riders survived and finally he beat WorldTour rider Alex Howes in a close sprint to take the win.


The fourth edition of the Tour of Alberta  kicked off with a circuit race in Lethbridge. The riders will kick the race off by doing 9 laps of an 11.7km circuit for an overall distance of 106.9km. The circuit had a flat start before a small descent led to the bottom of a short, steep climb whose top came just 3.7km from the finish. From the top, it was a flat run to the finish with a very technical finale that had several turns inside the final kilometre. There were be KOM points on offer on the second, fourth and sixth lap and intermediate sprints at the third and sixth passage of the line.


It was a sunny day when the riders gathered for the start, with Ibrahim Ali (Skydive) being the only non-starter. As expected, it was a very fast start with numerous attacks and no one managed to get clear during the first lap


On the second lap, Daniel Eaton (Unitedhealthcare), Matthieu Jeannes (Lupus), Danilo Celano, Pierpaolo Ficara (Amore e Vita), Travis McCabe (Holowesko) and Angus Morton (Jelly Belly) were all in the group managed to get clear and they entered the final 90km with a small advantage of 20 second. As they tackled the climb, there were KOM points on offer and so the attacking started.  Jeannes made an attack and took maximum points ahead of Celano and Eaton.


A small group with the likes of Francisco Mancebo (Skydive) and Frank Schleck (Trek) made it across on the climb and the former quickly too off in a solo move. However, a big group had formed behind him and they quickly reeled him in as they crossed the line for the second time.


The group consisted of Bauke Molema, Peter Stetina, Frank Schleck (Trek), Alex Howes, Kristijan Koren, Toms Skujins (Cannondale), Eaton, Daniel Summerhill, Tanner Putt, John Murphy (UHC), Chad Young (Axeon), Robin Carpenter, McCabe, Joe Lewis (Holowesko), Celano (Amore), Morton (Jelly Belly), Jeannes (Lupus), Shane Kline, Evan Huffman (Rally), Alex Cataford, Matteo Dal-Cin, Nigel Ellsay (Silber), Mancebo (Skydive) and Antoine Duchesne (Canada) which made it dangerous for the peloton, especially as they were working well together. They quickly managed to build an advantage of 1.30 as they headed through the third lap and a 1-minute lead over a small chase trio with Lawson Craddock (Cannondale), Colin Joyce (Axeon) and Redi Halilaj (Amore e Vita).


At the next passage of the line, Unitedhealthcare did a lead-out for the intermediate sprint and it was mission accomplished as John Murphy beat McCabe and Toms Skujins (Cannondale). The peloton arrived almost two minutes later.


After the sprint, there were a few attacks and it was Celano who escaped as they hit the climb again. Jeannes took off in pursuit but both were soon brought back after they had picked up the KOM points. Eaton again took third place. At the same time, the chase trio made the junction and so 29 riders had now gathered in front.


There was plenty of interest in keeping the break going and as Trek and Unitedhealthcare did the majority of the work, they had increased the gap to 2.15 when they crossed the line again. At this point, Holowesko had taken control in the peloton but they were losing ground.


Holowesko got some help from the Jelly Belly team and as they tackled the fifth lap, the balance tipped. At the next passage of the line, the gap had been reduced to 1.50.


As they went up the climb again, Halilaj set Celano up for the KOM sprint and with a long effort, he managed to make it three in a row by beating Jeannes, with Eaton again taking third place. After the climb, there were a few attacks and it was Skujins and Huffman who escaped from a small five-rider group. However, the group all came back together with 35km to go.


A Rally rider tried to attack as they headed towards the intermediate sprint but Unitedhealthcare kept it together. Joyce picked up maximum points ahead of Carpenter and Murphy before Holowesko and Jelly Belly led the peloton across the line 2.10 later.


After the sprint, Carpenter, Howes and Huffman attacked before Mollema, Skujins, Eaton, Joyce, Morton, Cataford, Mancebo and Ellsay made the junction to make it 11 riders in the lead. They worked well together to open a 35-second lead over the chasers as they tackled the seventh lap.


The gap had gone out to 1.10 at the start of the penultimate lap where Taylor Sheldon (Jelly Belly) managed to bridge the gap from the peloton to the chasers. They faild to cooperate and as they even started to attack each other during the next passage of the climb, it was evident that they would not make it back. Murphy, Pate and McCabe took off in pursuit but at the start of the final lap, they were 1.30 behind the 11 leaders. The peloton had caught the rest of the chase group and was sitting at 1.55.


While Pate pressed on and McCabe and Murphy were caught, the front group worked well together for most of the final lap until they hit the climb. Here Huffman attacked hard and he crested the summit with a small advantage over Mollema, Caprenter, Howes, Joyce and Eaton. The former two made it across to the lone leader but with 2.5km to go, the sextet was together. Duchesne made the junction and so 7 riders had gathered in the lead.


As there was a bit of a game of cat and mouse, three more riders latched onto the back of the group before Aton made the first attack. He had a small advantage at the passage of the flamme rouge but Mollema and Mancebo both took huge turns to bring the 10 riders back together.


Carpenter was in front through the final turns and then launched his sprint from the front. However, Alex Howes and Joyce were faster and it came down to a duel between the pair. The latter managed to hold the WorldTour rider off and so took the biggest win of his career, with Carpenter, Huffman and Eaton completing the top 5. As the peloton arrived, Kristijan Koren (Cannondale) made a late attack but he was brought back and it was Piet Allegaert (Trek) who led the bunch to the finish 2.06 behind the leaders.


With the win and bonus seconds, Joyce now leads Howes and Carpenter by seven seconds. He will try to defend his jersey in the relatively flat stage two. The 182km from Kananaskis to Olds consists of a long downhill run for most of the day. However, there’s a solid challenge at the midpoint when the riders tackle a rather tough climb but the top come with 96.5km to go. From there, it’s a gradual descent until the road gradually flattens out for the final 30km, with the sprint being slightly uphill.



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