Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp) won stage 3 at the Tour of Alberta on Friday.
Dennis triumphed out of a six-man breakaway, and with the victory he now leads the GC with two stages left.
Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing) was second in the 169-kilometer stage from Strathmore to Drumheller, while Damiano Caruso (Cannondale) took third.
Dennis now leads Bookwalter by 11 seconds in the overall standings. Patrick Gretsch (Argos-Shimano) is 18 seconds behind in third.
“I really came here to get a result in the prologue, and then I would play it by ear for the rest of the race,” Dennis said. “Once we got a break going things started playing in my head, maybe it just might stick. It could turn out to be the yellow jersey, and maybe the white jersey.”
The six riders, who broke away from a larger group of 18 on the last KOM point with 39km to go, worked well together in crosswinds on the open roads, riding in a rotating paceline to share the load. It wasn’t until the last few kilometers when things started to get interesting.
The cat and mouse game began with 4km left, as a few of the riders — including Steve Morabito (BMC), who was working for Bookwalter — jumped ahead of the group. But each effort was short-lived.
With 1km remaining, Morabito led out the pack, with Dennis on his wheel and Bookwalter sitting third. But the pace was far from top-speed. Nothing changed with 500 meters to go.
“It was a little bit of worry for a second,” Dennis said. “Brent was really close to me, so was Patrick. So I had to worry about them jumping a little bit early.”
At the 300m sign, the final sprint started. Dennis swung around Morabito’s wheel and launched himself forward, with Bookwalter frantically chasing him. If the race was another 50 meters, Bookwalter might have gotten the victory. Instead, Dennis held him off and rode into the yellow jersey.
“It’s never an intention, but it’s great to wear the yellow jersey at the first Tour of Alberta,” Dennis said.
Bookwalter said he knew the day would be a challenge, and with Dennis entering the stage second overall, snatching yellow was a tall order.
“Dennis was in the driver’s seat,” Bookwalter said. “First priority was get the stage win and at the same time, move up on the GC. To get the yellow jersey would have been a nice bonus.”
The peloton, which contained race leader Peter Sagan (Cannondale), finished almost 17 minutes behind the leaders. Sagan had led the race since winning the opening prologue. He also won stage 1.
“With the wind it was difficult to control today,” Sagan said. “After I saw Caruso was in the breakaway, I said ‘OK, let’s leave it today for another rider.’”
The race continues with Saturday’s 200km stage 4 from Black Diamond to Canmore before finishing in Calgary on Sunday.