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With a well-timed attack 500m from the finish, Slagter managed to win the first ever summit finish in the Tour of Alberta, narrowly holding off Mollema who moved back into the race 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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04.09.2015 @ 23:05 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale-Garmin) finally opened his 2015 account when he emerged as the strongest in stage 3 of the Tour of Alberta. In the first ever summit finish of the race, the Dutchman accelerated past Michael Woods (Optum) with 500m to go and managed to hold off a strong comeback from Bauke Mollema (Trek) who finished second and moved back into the race lead.

 

Last year it looked like the Garmin-Sharp team had made a major coup by signing Tom-Jelte Slagter. The Dutchman was flying in Paris-Nice where he won two stages and he would probably have won the race overall if he hadn’t been set back by bad luck in one of the hardest stages.

 

However, since then nothing has gone right for the talented Dutchman who has been unable to confirm his potential. The 2015 season has been a long string of disappointments but he showed improving condition in the Eneco Tour a few weeks ago.

 

That made him one to watch for the Tour of Alberta whose flat course has been changed for the third edition. For the first time ever, the race includes two summit finishes and Slagter delivered on his promises right from the start as he came out on top in the first of them.

 

At the bottom of the final 5km climb, the peloton had been whittled down to around 30 riders after Trek and Orica-GreenEDGE had set a fast pace on the penultimate ascent and brought back both the early and late attackers. Luke Durbridge led the group onto the climb for Orica-GreenEDGE but soon swung off and left it to his teammate Christian Meier to lead the group towards the top.

 

Meier and Sergey Chernetskii rode next to each other for a few kilometres while Michael Matthews and Adam Yates stayed glued to Meier’s wheel. As they entered the final 3km, Giant-Alpecin moved up next to them as there was a huge battle for position.

 

Katusha realized that the climb was not as hard as expected and so they tried to make the race tougher. Sven Erik Bystrøm hit the front, followed by his teammates Ilnur Zakarin, Sergey Lagutin and Alexei Tsatevich.

 

Bystrøm swung off with 1.5km to go and this was the signal for Zakarin to kick into action. The Russian made the group explode even further, with Lagutin, Adam Yates, Matthews and Tsatevich behind him.

 

Just before the flamme rouge, Matthews and Tsatevich both cracked byt just as this happened, Zakarin swung off and the pace went down. This opened the door for Bauke Mollema (Trek) to attack and only Tom Jelte Slagter (Cannondale), Lagutin and Yates could match his speed.

 

When Mollema stoped his acceleration, Michael Woods flew past the quartet and looked like he would ride away with the stage win. However, Slagter had an extra gear and with 500m to go, he went full gas. He easily passed the fading Woods and even though Mollema came fast in the end, it was enough to take a solo win.

 

Mollema crossed the line in second in the same time as Slagter while Yates was third four seconds further back. This was enough for the Dutchman to move back into the race lead. He now leads Yates by 6 seconds as he goes into the queen stage. An almost completely flat day ends at the top of a 12km climb that summits at 1600m of altitude.

 

Maiden summit finish

After yesterday’s sprint stage, it was time for the first ever summit finish in the race. Stage 3 brought the riders over 181.8km from Grande Cache to Jasper National Park and was a mixed affair. The first two thirds were predominantly flat and then the riders tackled a small climb to warm-up their legs. Then another flat section led to the finale where the riders first tackled another climb before the descended to the bottom of the 5km, 8% ascent to the finish.

 

It was a very cold day when the riders gathered for the start but luckily it was dry and the riders never had to tackle the snow that had been forecasted. Like yesterday, the race got off to a very fast start with lots of attacks before a 7-rider break got clear.

 

The break is formed

Jasper Bovenhus (Cannondale-Garmin), Tom Zirbel (Optum), Benjamin Perry (Silber), Alex Cataford (Silber), Thomas Vaubourzeix (Lupus), Adam De Vos (H&R) and Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18) and they quickly got an advantage of around 3 minutes. However, Orica-GreenEDGE were unwilling to let the situation get out of control and so they put the strong quartet of Svein Tuft, Michael Hepburn, Sam Bewley and Jens Mouris on the front.

 

They kept the break in check and it was still only 3.15 as they got to the 68km mark. In fact, they brought it down to 2.15 before they again slowed slightly down. At the 100km mark, it was again 2.45.

 

Bad luck for De Vos

The Orica-GreenEDGE quartet continued to ride steadily on the front and entered the final 75km with a delay of 3.05. Ten kilometres later, De Vos had extremely had luck as he suffered a mechanical. It took a long time for him to get going and he was already 1.40 back when he entered the final 60km where the peloton was at 2.30.

 

De Vos was brought back while the front group hit the first climb. KOM leader Perry tried to do a long sprint but was passed by Benedetti who took maximum points. At the top, the gap was still 2.30 and De Vos had been brought back.

 

Zirbel takes off

Orica-GreenEDGE started to slowly reel the break in. At the 50km mark, the gap was 2.00 and it had been reduced to 1.35 ten kilometres later. It stayed there for another 10km but as it approached the one-minute mark, the attacking started.

 

Zirbel managed to get clear before a strong Bovenhuis bridged across. Vaubourzeix quickly decided to sit up and Perry was also dropped from the chase group, leaving just Cataford and Benedetti 10 seconds behind the front duo.

 

Solo move from Bovenhuis

As soon as they hit the penultimate climb, Jesse Sergent hit the front for Trek and he set a fast pace that made the peloton explode to pieces. He caught Vaubourzeix, Perry, Benedetti and finally also Cataford.

 

Bovenhuis accelerated right from the bottom of the climb and easily dropped Zirbel. The latter was brought back with 15km to go where Matthew Busche took over the pace-setting for Trek. The American champion whittled the group further down and brought Bovenhuis back 14km from the finish.

 

Didier makes a move

One kilometre later he swung off and left it to Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEDGE) to set the pace. The Australian didn’t respond when Lauren Didier (Trek) attacked one kilometre from the top but when Nathan Brown (Cannondale-Garmin) and Kyle Murphy (Lupus) took off in pursuit, he had to leave it to Christian Meier to lead the chase.

 

Didier was the first to reach the top a few seconds ahead of Brown and Murphy and the trio joined forces just after the summit. Meier was still leading the chase until Durbrudge took over on the descent. He brought the front trio back with 8km to go and battled hard with Guillaume Boivin (Optum) for the front positions as they sped towards the bottom of the final climb where the action unfolded.

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