Mollema seals Alberta GC win as Arndt takes final stage
EDMONTON, Alberta (VN) — After seasons of consistent success on the lower steps of the podium, Bauke Mollema pedaled to something he hadn’t done in eight years Monday afternoon in Canada. The veteran Dutch rider won a stage race: the Tour of Alberta.
Mollema, 28 and in his eighth pro season, finished 12th in the main field in the 77.1-mile concluding circuit race to seal his six-second GC margin over Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) and a 22-second margin over Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale-Garmin).
“It couldn’t have started better with the team time trial and that’s why I was in the lead all week and why I won the general classification,” said Mollema. “It was really, really hard, but the time trial was the key. It was a bit of a surprise for us we won. For me to win the GC is really nice for me. It’s been some years since I won a general classification.”
Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin) held off Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge), winner of stage 2, in the 11-lap stage 6 finale that lasted a total of two hours, 44 minutes and 57 seconds. Wouter Wippert (Drapac) was third.
“It was a pretty hard finish for me, actually, with the climb,” said Arndt, who was the runner-up to Matthews in stage 2. “I had a good team around me and they supported me well. I waited for the right moment. I went around the last corner in position four, I think. I could wait, it was actually perfect. I just started with 150 meters to go and I could do a perfect sprint.”
Mollema assumed the race lead when his Trek team surprisingly won the windy and cold opening team time trial in Grande Prairie over favored Orica-GreenEdge. After Matthews took over the race lead following his stage 2 win, Mollema regained the leader’s jersey in stage 3, the first of his consecutive runner-up finishes to Slagter in mountain stages, and he held on through the final day in Edmonton to take the overall Tour of Alberta title.
Inclement weather ruled the event, which is in its third year. Stage 2 and 6 were safe from the extreme conditions, but rain, mud, strong winds, and occasionally near-freezing temperatures affected the rest of the race that advanced into Jasper National Park, the first mountain foray in the event’s history. The race began with 120 riders and there were 101 finishers in a field that included five WorldTour teams.
Although stage 6 included two mid-stage sprint time bonuses and the finishing 10, six, and four bonus seconds for podium finishers, none of the top three GC contenders gained ground on each other on the final day. Mollema, who took a slight pull at the head of the race near on the final lap when Slagter also jumped, remained near the front of the main field for much of the final circuit.
Mollema has finished in the top-10 overall in the past three editions of the Tour de France, including seventh in July. But his last stage race titles were in 2007 when he claimed the Tour de l’Avenir and Circuito Montanes while riding for the developmental Rabobank Continental team. He has compiled a long list podium finishes, eight in the past three seasons. He was second this season Vuelta a Murcia and second overall at Tirreno-Adriatico. In 2014, Mollema finished second in the Clásica San Sebastián, third overall in the Tour de Suisse and third overall in the Tour of Norway after a stage 4 win.