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JASPER NATIONAL PARK, Alberta (VN) — Dutchman Tom-Jelte Slagter claimed a solo uphill sprint win and countryman Bauke Mollema regained the race lead on bonus time with his runner-up finish in the chilly debut mountaintop finish Friday in stage 3 at the Tour of Alberta.
Slagter (Cannondale-Garmin) bolted to the front just after the 1-kilometer banner to complete the 181.1km stage in 4 hours, 28 minutes and 18 seconds. Mollema, who held the race lead after his Trek Factory Racing team won the opening team time trial, was given the same stage finishing time. But he earned six bonus seconds to replace race leader Michael Matthews, the Australian sprinter from Orica-GreenEdge. Adam Yates, Matthews’ British teammate, finished third in the stage, four seconds behind.
Mollema, who has finished in the top 10 in the past three editions of the Tour de France, now leads Yates, the reigning San Sebastian champion, by six seconds with three stages left in the third annual event that has now arrived in the Canadian Rockies. Russian Sergey Lagutin (Katusha) is third overall, trailing by 20 seconds.
Slagter, who claimed his first stage victory since the 2014 Paris-Nice, made his winning move as the main group arrived at the conclusion of the final climb that measures more than 5km and averages 8 percent to its finish at Miette Hot Springs, which sits at an elevation of more than 1,300 meters.
The riders faced inclement weather for the second straight stage, but the mountaintop finish was more severe. Snow flurries fell overnight and the day’s trek toward Jasper began under overcast skies in Grande Cache and with a temperature of 37 degrees.
The majority of the route was held on the wide and rolling two-lane state highway 40. The snow lightly covered the surrounding trees and roadside, but it didn’t affect the race. The temperature fell a few degrees and a periodic slight rain and flurries fell early in the stage. But 3.5 hours into the stage and as the peloton approached the park, riders began to remove layers as the sun made brief appearances and the temperatures moved into the mid-40s.
Jasper Bovenhuis (Cannondale), Adam de Vos (H&R Block), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18), Tom Zirbel (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies), Thomas Vaubourzeix (Lupus), and Silber teammates Alex Cataford and Benjamin Perry established more than a three-minute lead with 64km remaining. De Vos lost contact a short time later after a malfunctioning chain.
As the lead group entered the park with the final KOM and summit finish looming, the group’s advantage was reduced to 2:20. With 24km left, the break was one minute.
Zirbel, the 2013 U.S. national time trial champion who won the time trial at this year’s Tour of the Gila, went to the front briefly before Laurent Didier (Trek) moved ahead and was joined by Nate Brown (Cannondale) and Kyle Murphy (Lupus) with an advantage of a few seconds with 10km left. The trio fell back and a group of about 40 began the final climb together. Mike Woods (Optum), a solo stage winner in the recent Tour of Utah, jumped to the front with 1km left. But his power faded quickly. Slagter was there to capitalize on the opportunity.
“I have been here before, I think two years ago,” Slagter said after taking the victory. “We had some harder stages but not like today. We talked in the group that today would be good for me and we won it. It was surprising.
“Katusha had like four or five guys to pull and GreenEdge had I think three. I just stayed behind those guys and I knew a few of them would be dropped and I thought hopefully I could do a good sprint. I think with 1km to go there were three guys in front of me. I looked around, everyone was tired and I thought, ‘this is the moment to go.’ ”