This was the biggest race I have done. In the weeks leading into the race, all I was thinking about was training and being ready for racing 900km in 6 days. Then they announced that the likes of Cadel Evans, Peter Sagan, Ryder, etc were all going to be there. I started getting pretty nervous but I had done everything that I could do to get ready.
The team arrived the Friday before the start of the race, we were all happy to see each other and catch up. On Sunday we got shown around Edmonton by the local club, stopped for some coffee, and went and rode the prologue course. It was nice to ride with the guys, get the inside scoop on the area and the best coffee shops.
Monday was the busiest day of the trip so far. We rode the prologue course one last time, got in some opening efforts and prepared our bikes. That evening we headed to the Team Presentation where over 300 people were enjoying a nice dinner. When Jelly Belly was announced the cheers were great. Then Brad Huff, part sprinter and part cheer squad, got the crowd ignited when he told them that we all had Jelly Belly Beans to hand out, but only the loudest area of the room was going to get them. When we walked out of the room after handing out the beans, we knew the other teams were jealous of the welcome we’d received.
Tuesday, Sept. 3rd was the start of the Inaugural Tour of Alberta. A screaming fast 7.4km course in downtown Edmonton. The streets were packed with fans, yelling for their favorite riders. Our team had a rider start every 15-20 min. I gave it my all and finished 39th on the day. Brad Huff used his old man expertise to finish 22nd on the stage, only 30 seconds off the winner. We had set the bar for the week to come.
Stage 1 was a 98 mile jaunt from Strathcona County to Camrose. Our plan was to get a rider in the break, and then set up the stage for Freddie and Brad. The attacks went from mile 0 and didn’t stop until almost an hour into the race when Jeremy Powers got up the road with 3 other riders. Then Cannondale rode the front and kept the gap around 2 minutes for the rest of the day. With about 20 miles to go, Freddie crashed pretty hard on a corner and had to get a new bike. Emerson and I waited in the cars for Freddie and then we paced him back to the group. In the closing circuits, Jeremy and crew had a little under a minute gap and the pace was picking up fast. Jeremy got caught with under 2 miles to go and Sean took a massive pull to get Freddie into position. In the end Freddie got boxed in and finished 20th. However Jeremy took the most aggressive rider jersey on the day!
Stage 2 was the longest stage of the Tour at 109 miles from Devon to Red Deer. The stage started off very fast with many attacks from everyone and all the Jelly Belly Boys. Nothing was sticking and the race covered the first 64 miles in 2 hours. Nearly right at the 2 hour mark, Serghei Tvetcov and a rider from BMC rode away from the field and the gap immediately grew to over 5 minutes. When we hit the finishing circuits, Serghei and his breakaway companion had a 1:20 gap. The pace in the field picked up, but no luck. Serghei took a very close 2nd place and also took home the Most Aggressive Rider jersey for the Bean team second day in a row!
When we woke up for the 105 mile stage 3 from Strathmore to Drumheller, it was raining and windy. Luckily it was a 2 hour drive to the race and by the time we got there the sun was out but the winds were howling. We all knew it was going to be a very decisive day and that positioning was going to be key. Not more than 10 miles into the race, we took a right hand turn and the crosswinds started. The race become shattered into 3 groups of riders, with Brad, and Freddie making the front group. After another 20 or so mile, the groups all started to come back together and a hard attack from some Pro-Tour teams came and started the winning move. With about 60 miles to go, the peloton was back together and the breakaway of 17 riders were gone. The field was content with letting them go and we all rolled in safe and sound. A very different ending to a chaotic start.
Stage 4 was the 105 mile Black Diamond Loop and on paper it was the hardest day of racing with the most climbing of the tour. It was also very chilly and raining, this made for a epic day of racing. The stage started very fast and the breakaway selection was made very soon. Nic Hamiliton ( my roommate for the week) made the break and that was the last we saw of him. He ended the stage finishing 7th place on the day. The rest of the team rolled in with the field after staying as warm and as safe as we could.
The last and final day was the shortest at just 80 miles, but with a very technical finish the Calgary (Fun fact: Nic’s hometown!) we knew it was not going to be an easy day. The breakaway took about an hour to go, but once it went Nic Hamiliton had made the selection. With the break never gaining more than 1:30, we all knew it was going to come to a field sprint. Going into the last 10 miles we made sure the team was together and ready to keep Freddie and Brad safe for the sprint. I got shuffled into the back of the field once things started to get very chaotic, but Brad and Freddie stayed up in the mix. Brad finished 6th on the stage.
With that the week was done. I learned a lot, and we had a very successful tour with one podium finish, three top 10’s and two days in the most aggressive rider jersey.