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MARMOT BASIN, Alberta (VN) — Dutchman Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale-Garmin) claimed his second Tour of Alberta stage win in as many days Saturday, escaping out of a three-man group in the final 100 meters of stage 4 to take the victory. Compatriot Bauke Mollema (Trek Factory Racing) finished close behind and retained his race lead.
Slagter, who began the stage in fourth overall after his stage 3 win, escaped from Mollema and Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) in the finale to nab the second and last mountain stage of the six-day race in a total time of four hours, nine minutes, and 26 seconds. Mollema finished second at the end of the 100.7-mile trek, four seconds back. Yates was third on the same time.
The top three finishers were the survivors of a 20-rider group that came into the final slopes of the seven-mile climb to Marmot Basin Lodge together.
With a second straight runner-up stage finish, Mollema retained a six-second GC lead over Yates. Slagter moved into third overall, and now trails by 22 seconds.
“Today and yesterday were the main stages for GC; I don’t know how many seconds I am behind, maybe 20-25,” said Slagter. “It’s not easy to regain those seconds, but we will try and anything is possible.”
Stage 5 began in cool conditions with the peloton leaving downtown Jasper under overcast skies and near-freezing temperatures. The route included a brief city visit before the field began three 29-mile circuits on Icefields Parkway.
Often called Glacier Trial, the high-mountain road, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, is a sensory overload of glaciers, alpine meadows, and turquoise lakes. It’s often cited among the world’s most scenic drives.
Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon 18), Logan Owen (Axeon), and Thomas Vaubourzeix (Lupus) had a chance to get the first look at the scenery, breaking clear of the peloton early on in the stage. The trio rode in front for most of the day, steadily holding a margin of roughly three minutes as the miles ticked down.
Thwaites, who began the stage 46 seconds behind GC leader Mollema, was riding in a sustained break for the third straight day, and spent much of the afternoon in the virtual race lead. Owen, the 20-year-old Washingtonian who claimed his first pro win last month at the Tour of Utah, was temporarily in virtual second after beginning stage 4 in 43rd place, 2:36 behind.
But as the trio neared the last climb, the pace in the field started to heat up. The gap was lowered to 1:45 with 10 miles left and then 45 seconds with seven miles left. Owen was the last of the original leaders before he was caught and a group of about 20 rode together briefly at the front. Several attacks and counterattacks followed, with Slagter’s successful late escape capping off the hectic finale.
“I expected the attacks,” said Mollema, who went to the front briefly and remained steady as others tried to jump clear. “I had the GC and Cannondale and Katusha had three or four riders there in the GC. Yes, I expected the attacks, but there were some flat parts in the middle. So, it’s really hard to attack. You expend a lot of energy on those parts, so it was hard to stay in front.”
The third annual Tour of Alberta continues Sunday with what was initially advertised as a 128.1-mile trek from Edson to Sprue Grove, originally meant to include more than 34 miles of dirt roads. Organizers announced because of poor road conditions, the route will now feature only 11.5 miles of dirt. The day’s overall distance won’t be significantly altered, and the stage 5 profile will likely result in a sprinters’ finish.
“We have had the hardest stages now,” said Mollema. “Tomorrow is a really long day and with the gravel, of course. I think everybody is glad it’s only 18-19km now instead of 56. We are a strong team. We have a lot of power on the flats and we will protect the jersey, and I don’t expect to have any problems tomorrow.”