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2015 Tour of Alberta Stage 5: three in row for Cannondale-Garmin after a weird finish in Spruce Grove

A mistake in the finishing town of Spruce Grove led to a shambolic, anti-climatic end to the fifth stage of the 2015 Tour of Alberta; nevertheless, Cannondale-Garmin took its third win in a row with Lasse Norman Hansen (Denmark/Cannondale-Garmin) following up consecutive victories by Dutch teammate Tom-Jelte Slagter. Bauke Mollema (The Netherlands/Trek) keeps the yellow jersey going into the final stage.

It was another inclement day–or a regular early-September day near the Rockies–for the peloton, and on top of the rain, chill and crosswinds, the riders had dirt roads to face. Fortunately, two of the six sections were axed just ahead of the Tour of Alberta’s start in Grande Prairie because they had deteriorated, bringing the total kilometres on dirt down to 18.5 instead of the original 56.

Regardless of the shortened route, riders were going to have gritty teeth and filthy machines.

It took a while for a breakaway to form on the mildly downhill course. A half-dozen riders including Canadian Derrick St-John (Silber) pulled away and took a maximum gap of 5:00. However, by the 55-km to go mark, the six-pack had become a foursome. Katusha and Trek led the chase onto the penultimate dirt section, where Danish track cycling ace Hansen rocketed away from his breakmates.

After the final mucky stretch, a chase of seven centred around Ryder Hesjedal shot out from the peloton, but only Katusha’s Norwegian Sven Erik Bystrøm carried on the move. The organizers replaced the dirt kilometres with a second finishing circuit in Spruce Grove. Hansen still had 1:35 over the peloton as he entered the first 6-km circuit.

Incredibly, Bystrøm and then the streamlined peloton took the wrong route in town and there was much confusion and consternation. Because of the error, which turned the finale into higgledy-piggledy, the organizers neutralized the rest of the race, though Hansen would get the win. Hansen even stopped to ask what was going on. The sodden, encrusted peloton didn’t bother with the final circuit.

Hansen deservedly wins a weird stage in Spruce Grove. Photo credit: Jeff Bartlett
Hansen deservedly wins a disorderly stage in Spruce Grove. Photo credit: Jeff Bartlett

Jeff Corbett, the race’s VP of Technical Operations, speculated on and explained what happened: “Who knows why? Perhaps the second person didn’t see the marshal and everyone just followed. I wasn’t on the site. When I came through, I went the right way but I knew the course. We don’t have the greatest video to look back and see what happened. There was a marshal standing in the middle of the road. It was a call made on the road by the officials {to neutralize the race}. We always have a situation where certain people make it onto the circuit and certain people don’t. The leader was coming around just as the wrong way group was reentering the circuit. They would have run right into each other.”

Hansen’s strategic move had an all-too-understandable motive: “I went from the break on the second last piece of gravel simply because I was freezing and I wanted to go faster. I just thought, these guys are going too slow and I’ll never get heat in my hands again, so I just rode harder. When I looked back, I already had a gap and I just kept going.”

Ryan Anderson was the top Canadian in his hometown at twelfth.

There are 16 bonus seconds up for grabs on Monday’s final stage of the 2015 Tour of Alberta, which consists of eleven challenging laps of a 12-km circuit in Edmonton.

2015 Tour of Alberta Stage 5
1) Lasse Norman Hansen (Cannondale-Garmin)
2) Lauren Didier (Luxembourg/Trek) +1:59
3) Bauke Mollema (The Netherlands/Trek) +5:39
12) Ryan Anderson (Canada/Optum) s.t.

2015 Tour of Alberta GC
1) Bauke Mollema (The Netherlands/Trek)
2) Adam Yates (Great Britain/Orica-GreenEdge) +0:11
3) Tom-Jelte Slagter (The Netherlands/Cannondale-Garmin) +0:27