The US-based team will face a tough challenge from Cannondale-Drapac, the only other WorldTour team in the race, and a handful of hungry Pro Continental and Continental teams.
Leading the Cannondale attack will be Canadian Olympian and Tour of Utah stage winner Michael Woods, two-time Tour of California stage winner Toms Skujins, rising US star Lawson Craddock and journeyman Alex Howes.
Mollema won last year’s race with an impressive performance in the mountain stage and consistent riding throughout. This year’s race is a much flatter affair, with multiple sprints likely and the general classification of the five-day race left to time bonuses and the stage 4 individual time trial. Mollema will also have the services of Peter Stetina, Gregory Rast and Stijn Devolder.
"We’re bringing a strong team to Alberta, for sure,” Hesjedal said. “I’d like to think I could be that guy for our team for the race, but you have to remember this is a professional sport. The guys with the best legs and feeling the best are the guys you need to support. It’s about winning.”
Hesjedal, who, as winner of the 2013 Giro d’Italia is the only Canadian to have won a Grand Tour, raced in support of Mollema last year. His only other appearance at the race came in 2013, when he finished 60th overall. As his career nears its end, he’d no doubt like to add Alberta to his palmares, but he said nothing is certain in cycling.
“We’ll see how the race rolls out and what opportunities there are for the team,” he said. “You never know sometimes until you get into the race as to who has the best form. This race, though I haven’t studied it a lot, seems to be without the uphill finishes, which means it will be a race for opportunists. So, we’ll see. The strongest usually wins.”
Just 13 teams for 2016
The race released its initial list of 11 teams in June, saying at the time that four more teams would be announced in the coming weeks. The only new additions to the race roster since then, however, are the Ukranian-registered Amore & Vita-Selle SMP team and the Canadian national team.
UnitedHealthcare will represent the Pro Continental ranks, while Silber, H&R Block, Jelly Belly-Maxxis, Holowesko-Citadel, Axeon Hagens Berman, Lupus Racing and SkyDive Dubai fill out the remaining line up of Continental teams.
UnitedHealthcare will feature 2015 USA Pro Challenge stage winner John Murphy and two-time US National Champion Matthew Busche.
The Canadian National Team will bring current Canadian National Champion Bruno Langlois and Antoine Duchesne, who won the KOM jersey at Paris-Nice with Direct Energie, his trade team.
Silber Pro Cycling team will feature recent Tour of Utah stage winner Kris Dahl and 2015 Tour of Alberta KOM winner and former Canadian national champion Benjamin Perry, as well as Ryan Roth, the current Canadian time trial champion in individual time trial.
Axeon Hagens Berman will feature current US National Champion Greg Daniel in is first race back since breaking his collarbone in Utah, while Holowesko-Citadel will field recent Tour of Utah stage winners Robin Carpenter and Travis McCabe.
Jelly Belly-Maxxis, which is currently leading the UCI Americas Tour team leader after winning the Tour of Utah with Lachlan Morton, will feature Canadian upstart Jordan Cheyne.
Several top-level Grand Tour riders will be competing, including SkyDive Dubai’s Francisco Mancebo, making his first appearance in North America since he raced for US Continental in 2009 through 2013, and Chris Horner (Lupus Racing), the 2013 Vuelta a Espana overall winner.
2016 Tour of Alberta Teams:
Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling
UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling
Silber Pro Cycling
H&R Block Pro Cycling
Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis
Holowesko-Citadel p/b Hincapie Sportswear
Axeon Hagens Berman
Amore & Vita -Selle SMP
Canadian National Team