After five days of racing, the fight for the Tour of Alberta's overall crown has come down to Sunday's final stage in downtown Edmonton. Giant-Shimano's Tom Dumoulin has led the race since Tuesday's opening prologue, but his rivals have been using time bonuses throughout the week to whittle away at his lead.
Eleven riders currently sit within 30 seconds of the 23-year-old Dutch rider, including stage 1 winner Ruben Zepuntke (Bissell Development Team) at eight seconds and Orica-GreenEdge's Daryl Impey at nine. Garmin-Sharp's Ramunas Navardauskas is fourth, 13 seconds in arrears, followed by Jelly Belly-Maxxis rider Serghei Tvetcov at 14 seconds.
The 121km hilly circuit race through Edmonton's city center includes two intermediate sprints that offer bonuses of three seconds, two seconds and one second. And there are bonuses of 10, six and four seconds for the top three at the finish. Nevertheless, Dumoulin was cautiously optimistic about his chances to take home the final gold jersey.
"[The course] suits me at least really well," he said following Saturday's stage finish in Strathcona County, where Impey finished third and inched even closer. "But it's going to be really hard, and Impey took some seconds today, so he's now within the 10-second marker. It's difficult to drop him in the hills, so he will be our main contender tomorrow. A lot of guys are still within 30 seconds or within 40 seconds, so it will be an aggressive race."
The Giant-Shimano squad in Alberta is geared toward riding a hilly circuit more so than riding on the flats, Dumoulin said, but he knows how easy a lead can vanish. He was leading the Eneco Tour last month after winning the stage 3 time trial, but his lead slipped away to Lotto's Tim Wellens during the hilly stage 6 that finished in Denivellation.
"I'm normally really doing well in the hills, so I think it won't be a problem," Dumoulin said. "But I've lost already so many leader's jerseys on the last day or on the last day in the hills because everyone was attacking and I cannot react to everyone. So that will be the main thing."
Dumoulin will have the services of Georg Preidler, Tom Peterson, Daan Olivier, Thierry Hupond, Simon Geschke, Steven Lammertink and Jonas Alhstrand throughout the day, but in the end he'll likely have to control his nearest rivals on his own.
"We'll focus on the riders that are closest with me in GC," he said. "I personally cannot follow everyone, so I cannot react to anyone. If there are riders going that are one minute on GC, I think we have a good team that can control a rider like that. If like Ryan [Anderson] or Daryl Impey attack, then I need to follow. So that's the plan.
Anderson, who rides for Optum Pro Cycling, is currently 16 seconds down in seventh. Impey's teammate Leigh Howard is sixth at 15 seconds back. Other riders to watch include UnitedHealthcare's Danny Summerhill, just 18 seconds in arrears, and Bissell's James Oram at 23 seconds back. Orica's Pieter Weening is 26 seconds down, and Belkin's Sep Vanmarcke, winner of stage 3, is 30 seconds behind.
"I expect an aggressive race," Dumoulin said. "For us it would be good to have a breakaway gone with riders that are not a danger for the GC. That would be the best for us, of course, then the bonus seconds are gone and Daryl Impey cannot win the stage and take the bonus seconds. But yeah, probably that won't happen. So it will be aggressive racing."
Sunday's final stage in Edmonton involves 11 laps of an urban circuit that features the climb up Bellamy Hill Road, which was part of last year's prologue. From there the course descends to the riverfront and then climbs back to the start/finish in the city center.
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