Bauke Mollema (Trek Factory Racing) has moved back into the overall lead at the Tour of Alberta after placing second in stage 3’s climb to Miette Hot Springs, the first of two summit finishes in Jasper National Park.
“This was the goal for today and I’ve taken some bonus seconds, so it is still close with Adam [Yates] in the GC for tomorrow, but anyway it was a good day,” Mollema said at the finish line.
The Dutch climber heads into stage 4 with an advantage of six seconds over Yates (Orica-GreenEdge), and he warned that riders should expect the second summit finish, a climb to Marmot Basin Ski Resort, to be much tougher.
“Tomorrow is one long climb, 12 kilometres in the end and it will be harder than today,” Mollema said.
The peloton lined up in Grande Cache to start stage 3 under cold temperatures that dipped to the freezing mark. Overnight snow covered the sides of the roads along parts of the course, and although the temperatures eventually rose to three degrees Celsius, the on-and-off rain added to the challenge of the stage.
“I think today was already a really hard day with the finish and especially with the cold,” Mollema said. “It was below five degrees Celsius all day and some rain, so it was a really cold day and luckily it got dry in the final.”
Trek Factory Racing viewed the final climb as an opportunity to move Mollema back into the race lead. He had garnered the first leader’s jersey after his team won the stage 1 team time trial but lost it to Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) during stage 2.
The final climb looked daunting on paper, but as the peloton raced toward the final KOM of the day at the 12-kilometre to go mark the field was still largely intact and even included some of the top sprinters, and GC leader Matthews.
“I expected it to be harder, so we wanted to make the race hard with the team,” Mollema said. “Jesse Sergent and Matthew Busche, they did a good job and were pulling but the climb was not hard enough, it was less steep than we thought. It was still a big group in the last 10 kilometres.
“The last climb was not easy but it was only hard in the last two kilometres, more or less. There were still some sprinters there, Michael Matthews and Nikias Arndt. We knew it had to be faster.”
After a short descent the road kicked up again for the last four or five kilometres and Mollema was the first to make a strong attack, but he was countered by Michael Woods (Optum Pro Cycling) before the winning move came from Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale-Garmin).
“The guys from Katusha went really fast into the last kilometre and then everything exploded. I saw Matthews dropping, so I knew that I could take the jersey,” Mollema said.
“I was in the view of Tom in the last 500 metres and he attacked really strong. He is really good in these kinds of finishes, really explosive. In the last 300 metres I tried to close the gap, and I was coming closer but in the last 200 metres he was accelerating again.
“It was good to get second and take the jersey again.”