Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands dominated the Tour of Alberta’s prologue on Tuesday to kick off the cycling stage race.
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The 23-year-old Dutch time trial champion was the only rider among the 118 to go under six minutes at Canada Olympic Park.
The four-kilometre course was gentle until the last 1.3 km when the cyclists climbed 100 metres over six switchbacks. Dumoulin was one of the few who didn’t fade in the final push to the finish line.
Runner-up Serghei Tvetcov of Romania was 13.96 seconds behind Dumoulin. Tom Danielson of the U.S. was 17.01 seconds back in third
Zach Bell of Watson Lake, Yukon, was the top Canadian in eighth followed by Christian Meier of Sussex, N.B., in ninth.
Riders from 19 countries rolled off the start ramp Tuesday. The 734-kilometre race concludes Sunday in Edmonton.
Afternoon showers halted in time to provide dry pavement and the temperature at race time was 14 degrees.
Rohan Dennis of Australia won the inaugural Tour of Alberta champion last year, but he was assigned to the Tour of Spain by BMC Racing and thus didn’t return to Alberta to defend his title.
Next stage planned for Lethbridge
Garmin-Sharp also sent Canadian cycling star Ryder Hesjedal to Spain, but did provide Tour de France stage winner Ramunas Navardauskas of Lithuania and Tour of Utah victor Tom Danielson of the U.S. to Alberta.
Steven Kruijswijk of the Netherlands, who was 15th in this year’s Tour de France, is also competing.
Among the 27 Canadian riders in the race is two-time Olympian Bell, who has represented Canada in both track and road cycling internationally.
They’re riding for $125,000 in prize money and the overall leader’s yellow jersey, as well as other jerseys awarded to the top Canadian, best sprinter and climber, top prospect and the biggest move up in each stage.
Wednesday’s Stage 1 is 143 kilometres of laps in and around Lethbridge. Thursday’s Stage 2 is 145 kilometres one way from Innisfail to Red Deer with a two-lap detour around Sylvan Lake.
Friday’s Stage 3 is 157 kilometres from Wetaskiwin to CFB Edmonton via Fort Saskatchewan. The riders will hit some gravel patches on the 163k leg from Edmonton into Sherwood Park.
The final stage is 11 laps of an 11-km loop through downtown Edmonton.
Mountain stage missing
What the global television audience will be missing this year is the stunning mountain vistas that in many ways define Alberta’s tourism profile.
Both Canmore and Banff were approached about hosting a mountain stage this year, but Tour of Alberta spokesperson Duane Vienneau says neither community wanted to put up the “rights fee” — which ranges upwards from $100,000 depending on the size of the community.
“They weren’t ready for that financial commitment but they want the race,” said Vienneau.
He is confident there will be a mountain stage next year.
“I just don’t know which communities it will be in,” said Vienneau.
Dave Rodney, Alberta’s associate minister of wellness, feels a mountain stage is a must.
“There are a lot of people that want to see our mountain parks highlighted and there is going to be a big push for that next year,” he said.
The province contributed $1.5 million towards the race this year — money that Rodney says was well spent.