Among the top finishers during Friday's opening stage at the ATB Tour of Alberta, one name was unlikely to roll off the tongues of most casual fans. Jack Burke, from first-year development team Aevolo, put in a stellar ride to finish fifth atop Marmot Basin and claim the jersey for best Canadian.
"For myself it's huge," Burke said. "It's probably the biggest result of my career so far and for the team. It's the first year the team's been around, and this is the biggest race we've done so far. We've been looking forward to this, so it's an incredible way to start the race off."
Burke was part of the large breakaway that slipped away on the first of three loops in Jasper National Park before the Marmot finish. The Aevolo rider bided his time in the move along with teammate Tyler Stites, waiting for the final 14km climb to make his move.
With 25 kilometers to go, Aevolo had Stites commit to help Burke get as big of a gap as possible. By the time the break hit the climb, the escapees had a two-minute advantage on the peloton.
Eventual winner, Evan Huffman (Rally Cycling) rolled off the front of the break on the climb, and by the time he got 15 seconds it was the last they saw of the Rally rider.
"We put a little bit of money on Sepp [Kuss]," Aevolo director Mike Creed said of Huffman's teammate who was also in the breakaway. "So we told him to wait for Sepp, which was probably the smart money. But when Huffman went, he's so freakin' strong that he just rode out.
"At that point the climb wasn't steep enough for Jack just to attack," Creed said. "So at a certain point he just had to commit to the move, and now he's best young rider, best Canadian. All that being said, he did really good starting with two minutes."
Burke, who competed at the Tour of Alberta for the first time last year wth H&R Block and finished 15th overall, said he had the Marmot Basin stage circled on his calendar for quite some time.
"I've been looking at this stage specifically for a really long time, looking at this race and only thinking about this first stage," he said. "So it's great to plan for that, work for that, be thinking of that all the time, so to actually put it together at the end – that doesn't always happen in bike racing with a million things that can go wrong – so it's really, really special when it comes together like that."
"It's incredible," Burke said. "I love racing in Canada and being in the mountains here. Jasper's such a beautiful spot, and then looking back at some of the riders who have worn this [best Canadian] jersey, like Ryder [Hejsedal] and Svein [Tuft]. It's a huge honour to be in this jersey."
When a reporter pointed out to Burke that Huffman had finished fifth on this same stage in 2015, Burke took stock in what that might bode for his own future.
"I watched Evan basically do a 15km time trial before doing another one up the mountain, so he's pretty good at riding bikes, and it's a pretty good look for the future," he said.
Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake before studying English and journalism at the University of Oregon. He has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon.
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