The wide-open 2016 Tour of Alberta has winnowed the GC contenders down to a just handful of riders, with one second standing between overall leader Robin Carpenter (Holowesko-Citael) and 2015 winner Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), and less than a minute separating the top eight riders.
Carpenter seized control of the race on Sunday during the stage 4 time trial in Edmonton, while Mollema won the stage and climbed from fifth to second. Former leader Evan Huffman (Rally Cycling) is third, seven seconds back. Now the final circuit race in Edmonton is set to decide the overall, just as it did in 2014 when Daryl Impey won the stage and the 10-second time bonus that pushed him past Tom Dumoulin by one second.
The downtown Edmonton circuit is 11 laps of a 11.1km circuit that is twisty, technical and features two short, punchy climbs. It is notoriously hard to defend a lead on the route, but Carpenter and his Holowesko-Citadel team have shown no signs of being intimidated by the WorldTour rider that is sitting just one second behind.
"I'm super confident," Carpenter said when asked about his attitude going into Monday's stage.
The 24-year-old from Philadelphia has good reason to feel that way. In four stages this week, Carpenter has only finished off the podium once, when he finished in the field on stage 2.
As Carpenter pointed out in the stage 4 press conference, however, Mollema has timed his rise perfectly, saving his energy for the time trial and Monday's finale, and placing himself in prime position to repeat his 2015 win.
"I'm close, but it's still a hard day tomorrow with a lot of climbs, short climbs but we will see," Mollema said after stage 4. "It's not going to be easy, because Robin is riding very strong this week and he's very fast in the sprint. There are still bonification seconds at the finish line and halfway, so I think we will make a good plan tonight for tomorrow."
Carpenter’s and Holowesko's plan is to race aggressively and use his experienced teammates to help keep him on the podium's top step at the end of the day.