World class cyclists tour Foothills
Cycling: Black Diamond stars in Stage Four of Tour of Alberta
By: By Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 11, 2013 09:48 pm
The 2011 Tour de France champion gave Foothills’ cycling landscape a seal of approval after winning Stage 4 of the Tour of Alberta in High Country Sept. 7.
Australian Cadel Evans won a thrilling sprint from a pack of five to the finish line in front of hundreds at Oilfields High School to take Stage 4 of the inaugural Tour of Alberta on a soggy Saturday afternoon in Black Diamond.
“As an Australian, if there’s one word to describe the previous days it’s vast. I’ve never seen stretches of road so long and straight,” Evans said about the change of pace on the High Country roads. “(In Stage 4) it was nice be able to do corners and go up a few hills to break up the rhythm a little bit.
“It was nice scenery and I know in Alberta there’s some beautiful pieces of countryside having been here before.”
Saturday’s 169 km race took 115 cyclists on a scenic tour of High Country. The race started at Oilfields High School headed west through Turner Valley and Millarville then up through Bragg Creek. The course then meandered southeast on Highway 22 for a two-lap circuit east of Millarville, including two King of the Mountain portions in the locally dubbed Hills of Nepal, before coming back through Turner Valley and central Black Diamond.
King of the Mountain winner Tom Jelte Slagter of Netherlands and German Simon Geschke held the lead after the mountainous portion, but not for long. The three-pack of Evans, Canadian Antoine Duchesne and Australian Ben Day caught up quickly, leading to a race of five for the final 30-plus kilometres.
“My hope was that being so long away and a little bit hilly that it was going to wear the other guys down and slow them down a bit,” Evans said. “Me being a three-week rider, normally the harder it is, the better I am in the final against the others.
“A bit of cold weather, a bit of rain, a few hills, a few rough, muddy roads and it worked out in the end.”
Stage 4 was originally slated to start in Black Diamond and trek through Kananaskis Country to a finish in Canmore, but was re-routed following the major flooding of Southern Alberta.
Canadian Nic Hamilton, who finished amongst the second grouping in seventh place, enjoyed the change of scenery and altitude on display.
“It was the first time we’d seen some trees on the race, the first time we’d seen some hills and despite the wind it was still a beautiful course,” he said.
“I liked the way they did the circuits, we got to see a lot of Black Diamond and Turner Valley area.”
The Calgary native had the closest thing to a home course advantage in the foothills.
“It’s really awesome to be here. My family is here, my friends are here and it’s the first time in my career I saw my name written in sidewalk chalk on the road,” said Hamilton, impressed with the fan support throughout. “For a soggy, wet day like this, to get the spectators we did is pretty phenomenal.
“I think it bodes well for the race’s future.”
Yellow jacket holder Rohan Dennis echoed the sentiment after maintaining his overall lead through Stage 4.
The 23-year-old Australian said the crowd support matched what he’s seen at top races in Europe and the United States – noting the raucous crowds at the King of the Mountain portion on Highway 274.
“The crowds, especially for the rain, really came out and supported us today,” Dennis said. “Sure, it’s always a bit more motivating when you’re feeling the energy of the crowd. The one climb was particularly good.”
The 21-year-old Duchesne, who finished fifth in a sprint to the finish, called his post-race reception and presentation of the Most Aggressive Jersey in Black Diamond some of the highlights of his young career.
“That was real amazing. It’s the first time I’ve got on the podium like that and had a chance to get a jersey,” he said.
“Especially in my country, with the crowd. That was a really good opportunity for me.”
The Quebecois cyclist was positively beaming after the race and encouraged the youth of Black Diamond and the Foothills to dream big.
“I’m myself from a little town up in Saguenay, back in Quebec. I started in a little club and always kept on working and trying to get better for the last eight years I’ve been riding a bike,” Duchesne said. “Everything is possible if you believe in it. It’s not if you’re from a little town or if you don’t have all the resources, it’s if you work hard.
“Today I was riding with a Tour de France winner and was able to ride with him so I think that shows everything is possible, wherever you’re from.”
The Tour of Alberta concluded on Sunday’s fifth and final stage which had racers start at Seaman Stadium, cycle through Olde Towne Okotoks before twisting through Millarville, Bragg Creek and through to Calgary via Highway 8.
Slovak sprinter Peter Sagan won Stage 5 while Dennis took the overall title to win the inaugural Tour of Alberta.
For more information on the Tour visit tourofalberta.ca