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Riders who take part in both the USA Pro Challenge and the Canadian WorldTour races, such as the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal, will have the six-day Tour of Alberta to fill the gap next year between the events.
BMC, Cannondale, Argos-Shimano, Blanco join Garmin-Sharp
The Tour of Alberta named the first nine teams invited to the inaugural event, which will take place September 3-8, 2013: joining the already announced Garmin-Sharp team from the WorldTour are BMC, Cannondale, Argos-Shimano and Blanco.
Also invited from the Professional Continental ranks is the Champion System team and Continental squads Equipe Garneau-Quebecor, SmartStop p/b Mountain Khakis and Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies.
Most of the teams announced today have Canadian connections: Garmin-Sharp will likely bring 2012 Giro d'Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal, Quebecois riders Guillaume Boivin (Cannondale) and François Parisien (Argos-Shimano) are two of seven Canadians in the WorldTour, while Champion System employs three Canadians: Zach Bell, Ryan Roth and Ryan Anderson. (It remains to be seen if the Orica-GreenEdge team of Svein Tuft and Christian Meier will be included). Garneau is one of only two Canadian professional teams this season, and Optum has two riders from the country, Sebastian Salas and Marsh Cooper. SmartStop has Canadian crit champion Ben Chaddock amongst its ranks, and is managed by Alberta native Jamie Bennett. The team will bring one aspiring professional from the province to the event.
Blanco has had success in Canada before, with Robert Gesink winning the first edition of the GP de Montréal in 2010, and has courted North American technology company Belkin as a sponsor.
The race organisers are pleased with the quality of the selections so far.
"The initial teams, especially the five Pro Tour teams and Canadian cycling hero Ryder Hesjedal's Garmin-Sharp team, bode well for a first-year event," said Duane Vienneau, the Tour of Alberta's Executive Director. "We are aiming high and believe we have achieved our initial goals with the first teams announced. There will be more great teams announced within the next couple weeks."
The organisation expects to name six more teams in the coming weeks.
The Tour of Alberta will start in Edmonton, Alberta with a prologue. Stage 1 travels east and south of Edmonton metro from Strathcona County to Camrose. Stage 2 routes on to the plains from Devon to the Red Deer. Stage 3 travels from Strathmore to Drumheller near the Dinosaur monuments. Stage 4 races from Black Diamond into the Rocky Mountains and Canmore. The final day, Stage 5, starts in Okotoks and routes into Calgary and a circuit finish.
The event forms a bridge on the North American calendar between the UCI 2.1-ranked Tour of Utah, the 2.HC USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado and the World Tour races, the GP de Montréal and GP de Quebec.
"The field is very strong already for a first-year event, which demonstrates the relevance of the inaugural Tour of Alberta," said Chris Aronhalt of Medalist Sports, the race's technical directors. "Cycling is growing tremendously on this continent and Canada, and specifically Alberta, will see some of the world's best athletes coming to its corridors in September 2013."