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Having distanced his breakaway companions on the dirt road, Norman rode to a solo win in stage 5 of the Tour of Alberta; Mollema defended his lead as time gaps were neutralized after the peloton had gone off course

Photo: Sirotti










06.09.2015 @ 23:52 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Lasse Norman Hansen (Cannondale-Garmin) facilitated his search for a new contract by taking his first pro win with a great solo ride. The Dane emerged as the strongest from a six-rider breakaway but it was the confusion behind that got most of the attention. Time gaps were neutralized after the peloton had gone off course and so Bauke Mollema (Trek) defended the overall lead.


With good performances at the U23 World TT Championships and an omnium gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics, Lasse Norman Hansen started his professional career in 2014 as one of the biggest cycling talents. However, his progress has stalled and as we approach the end of the 2015 season, he still hasn’t found a team for next season.


Today he did his best to recommend himself for a future employer when he confirmed the good condition he has shown recently by taking his first pro win on stage 5 of the Tour of Alberta. On a course that featured 18.6km of dirt road, the Dane was the best from an early breakaway and so made it three in a row for Cannondale-Garmin.


Norman was part of a six-rider move that had been whittled down to four riders as they hit a dirt road sector with 40km to go. Here he turned out to be the strongest as he slowly rode away from Tom Zirbel (Optum), Derrick St. John (Silber) and Fred Rodriguez (Jelly Belly).


The peloton had been controlled firmly by the Katusha team but the Russians were still 2.40 behind when they hit the tricky surface. Trek was the first to hit the gravel but it was Katusha who did the damage. They made use of the rainy and difficult conditions to accelerate hard as they hit the sector and so the group exploded to pieces. Hincapie were also active, trying to escape fom the peloton.


Norman had an advantage of 15 seconds as he exited the sector and he continued to gain time as he approached the next sector. This one was even harder as it was hard to keep traction in the wet conditions.


Zirbel tried to distance his companions but the chase trio stayed together on the gravel. Further back, the entire Katusha team had made the selection and they continued to ride hard.


As soon as they were back on the tarmac, Katusha played their next card as they sent Sven Erik Bystrøm off in an attack. He was quickly joined by Logan Owen (Axeon) and the pair immediately caught the chase group.


Only Rodriguez was able to hang onto the pair while the attacking continued further back. Jan Barta (Bora-Argon 18), Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale), Toms Skujins and Dion Smith (Hincapie) made it across to make it a very strong 7-rider chase group.


Smith and Hesjedal were GC dangers and so Trek were forced to chase hard in the 35-rider peloton. Hesjedal contributed to the pace-setting for a while but with 25km to go, he decided to play the team card to protect Norman.


At this point, the chasers were just 15 seconds ahead of the peloton which was 1.50 behind the lone Dane. However, the peloton was getting closer and when the catch was imminent, Bystrøm took off.


The rest of the group was caught and Trek could now take it a bit easier as a bit of a regrouping had taken place in the peloton. Giant-Alpecin briefly tried to chase with Tobias Ludvigsson but for most of the time it was Trek’s Marco Coledan controlling the pace. Hence, the gap had gone out to 2.30 as they entered the final 20km where Bystrøm was 1.35 behind.


The peloton got back up to speed and when Bystrøm was just 15 seconds ahead, Andzs Flaksis (Hincapie) tried to bridge the gap. That allowed him to take third in the intermediate sprint behind Norman and Bystrøm.


With 15km to go, Bystrøm was 1.25 behind while the peloton was at 1.40. Three kilometres later Norman still had an advantage of 1.10 over his chaser who was not getting any closer. The peloton was at 1.40 and was led by Trek that showed no interest in bringing the break back. Giant-Alpecin were still doing a bit of work but it was not an organized chase.


Flaksis decided to sit up and he was brought back as they entered the final 10km. Meanwhile, the tiring Norman was starting to lose ground and he only had 1.20 with 8km to go.


That’s when he got some unexpected help as both Bystrøm and the peloton took the wrong way. It took some time for them to realize the mistake and get back onto the course, meaning that Norman had extended his advantage significantly when he crossed the line to start the lap of the 7km finishing circuit.


The incident ended the day for Bystrøm who was brought back and instead it was Lauren Didier (Trek) who benefited to suddenly find himself in lone pursuit of Norman. However, he was far back when he started the final lap.


The commissaires decided that the peloton was allowed to skip the lap of the finishing circuit and so they rolled slowly to the finish. Hence, it became a ceremonial ride for Norman who had plenty of time to celebrate his win while his teammates were already waiting for him. Didier was given second place while Bauke Mollema was officially ranked as third.


The time gaps were neutralized and so Bauke Mollema defended his 6-second lead over Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) in the overall standings. He faces a tricky final stage that consists of 11 laps of a hilly circuit in Edmondton. It includes two short, steep climbs, with the final of those leading to the finish for a finale that is tailor-made for puncheurs.


Lots of dirt roads

After two consecutive summit finishes, it was back into flatter terrain for stage 5 which brought the riders over 204km from Edson to Spruce Grove. The course was almost completely flat but included 19km of dirt roads. Originally 56km of rough surface had been planned but bad road conditions had forced the organized to change the route. The race ended with a lap of a 7km finishing circuit.


It was a rainy day in Canada when the riders gathered for the start and they got it off to an extremely fast opening phase. The riders hit the first dirt road sector inside the first 5km and this made for some aggressive racing.


The break gets clear

Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin) and Travis McCabe (Smartstop) both punctured on the gravel but apart from that, no one managed to escape. With strong headwinds, it was difficult for anyone to get clear as the riders only covered 39km in the first hour.


Finally, a break was established when Norman, Dominik Nerz (Bora-Argon 18), Tom Zirbel (Optum), Fred Rodriguez (Jelly Belly), Derrick St. John, Michael Le Rossignol (Silber) got clear. The peloton finally slowed down and so the gap quickly went out to 4.25. Evan Murphy (Lupus) and Adam De Vos (M&R) tried to bridge the gap but they failed to make it across.


Katusha take control

At the 80km mark, the gap was 4.55 as Trek had now taken control. A few crashes in the wet conditons split the field which was content with letting the gap grow to more than five minutes.


Unsurprisingly, the peloton accelerated hard as they approached the second dirt road sector and so the gap was down to 2.30 as they entered the final 55km. Here the breakaway split up as Le Rossignol and Nerz were both distanced.


The two chasers were losing ground and had already been distanced by 1 minute as they entered the final 50km. The peloton was still at 2.30 and it was now the Katusha team that had taken control, with Viacheslav Kuznetsov taking some huge turns on the front.



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