The Optum p/b KBS men are primed for the UCI 2.1 ranked Tour of Alberta, which begins today in Calgary with a short but difficult prologue. The 4km stage will be held at Canada Olympic Park with a flat opening section on the lower slopes of the ski hill before ascending the final 2km. The circuitous climb, with pitches of up to 10%, winds its way to the top of COP following the bobsled track, which was built for the 1988 Winter Olympics.
The prologue could prove decisive in the overall despite its short distance. The overall race is expected to be sprint heavy where every second counts in separating the top 10 on GC. However there are a few surprises in store for the riders. Last year, as the race went into the “badlands” near dinosaur friendly Drumheller, the race exploded in the crosswinds delivering last year’s winner Rohan Dennis to victory and our own Ryan Anderson to 8th overall. Anderson also claimed the prize of Best Canadian ahead of 2012 Tour of Italy winner Ryder Hesjdal. More windy days could be in store this week and the team will have to be attentive to not miss important splits.
Tough circuits are expected for Stage 1 in Lethbridge and Stage 5 in Edmonton. Numerous climbs per lap will mean the sprinters teams may no be able to keep their fast man in contact before the finish. And new to the race this year is the addition of “Canadian Pave”. Stage 4 will see the riders run over three dust-control road sections of dirt and gravel over a 5km stretch. This may be enough to cause a significant split in the field that could affect the overall. In addition, the first few days of the race may see some rain.
Ryan Anderson is one of the media’s Five Riders to Watch in this second edition of the race. However keep an eye on 2014 Tour of California stage and King of the Mountain champion Will Routley. The Canadian missed the recent USA Pro Challenge due to illness but enters his home race determined to make a splash. Optum p/b KBS’ sprinter Eric Young will be looking for stage victory. Young missed out on a win in last year’s race, finishing 2nd to Peter Sagan of Cannondale. However he’s shown he has a very quick turn of speed recently in winning Stage 5 of the Tour of Utah.
Roster for Tour of Alberta: