9/5/2013 12:00:00 AM - TEAM NEWS!
Tour of Alberta: Sagan takes out prologue
September 3, Prologue: Edmonton (ITT) 7.3km
Dennis, Ludvigsson complete the podium
Peter Sagan (Cannondale) took control of the Tour of Alberta Tuesday with a blistering performance over the 7.3km prologue time trial course, covering the route in 8:28, 13 seconds faster than runner-up Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp) and 14 seconds better than Argos-Shimano's Tobias Ludvigsson, who held the fastest time for most of the day before the top contenders hit the streets.
"After Colorado I felt very good, and I was also trying to do well here," said Sagan, who won four out of seven stages last month at the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado and also took the prologue time trial at last year's Tour de Suisse in front of Fabian Cancellara. "I knew the first day was important, and I was hoping for the stage victory today. I felt very, very good and really tried to win this prologue."
Dennis also raced in Colorado and said the preparation there and at the Tour of Utah in early August prepared him well for this week in Alberta.
"I'm not surprised by my fitness," the 23-year-old Australian said. "I'm coming up from Utah and Colorado, which are both pretty hard races and both at altitude, so I've been seeing the progression through both of those races, and they've been great preparation leading to the Tour of Alberta and the next two races in Montreal and Quebec and then worlds."
General classification favorites Cadel Evans (BMC) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) finished fourth and 10th, respectively. Evans was 20 seconds off the lead pace, and Hesjedal was 30 seconds back. Orica-GreenEdge leader Pieter Weening was seventh on the day, 29 seconds down.
Sagan now has a nice buffer between himself and the rest of the GC hopefuls with five relatively flat stages that offer time bonuses to the winners. Hesjedal indicated that Sagan now has a good head start toward taking the overall, but he'll have a fight on his hands.
"I think it was better to try and put time into him today for anyone who wants to win the race," Hesjedal said. "He's proven himself many times, and if he rides like he can he's very capable of winning this race.
"He's not a traditional GC rider," Hesjedal continued. "But he can definitely win the GC here based on his abilities and the courses. That's if things go by the normal script, but we all know things can change and anything can happen, so that's why we all show up and start the bike race."
How it happened
The course through downtown Edmonton featured 12 tight corners, a swooping descent and a short 1km climb that was timed to determine who would wear the first KOM jersey. Although most of the competitors chose straight time trial machines, several riders opted for road bikes.
Ludvigsson, a 22-year-old who finished 4th on stage 9 of this year's Giro d'Italia, started 14th out of 117 riders and set the best early time with a mark of 8:42. Belkin's Robert Gesink started 11 riders later and climbed to within 16 seconds of Ludvigsson but couldn't overtake the young Swedish rider's time.
Garmin-Sharp's David Zabriske was the next rider to get close to Ludvigsson, but the five-time US time trial champion fell 15 seconds short. And so it continued, with US time trial champion Tom Zirbel (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) coming within 15 seconds, Orica-GreenEdge's Weening finishing 14 seconds in arrears, BMC's Brent Bookwalter closing the gap down to six seconds and Optum's Chad Haga coming within eight seconds of Ludvigsson.
But it wasn't until Dennis, starting an hour and a half later in 94th position, that Ludvigsson's time finally fell. Dennis covered the course in 8:41, eclipsing the previous best mark by a little more than one second.
The Garmin rider was happy with his ride and held out some cautious optimism about the final result.
"I knew there was still Cadel to come and Peter – and Ryder Hesjedal – but I was pretty confident I would get top three. But Peter destroyed me by 13 seconds or something. I didn't expect him to be beat me by that much."
Dennis held the lead for just 13 riders before Sagan crossed the line with a new best mark. With just two riders left on course, Sagan's spot on the podium was assured, but BMC's Evans finished 20 seconds behind the Slovakian road champion and hometown favorite Hesjedal finished 30 seconds down.
The final tally left Sagan in firm control of the race. Now it's up to him and his five teammates to control the race for the rest of the week if he wants to put on the final yellow jersey when the race ends in Calgary on Sunday.
"I feel good and I will try to hold yellow," he said. "But I'm still preparing for Quebec and Montreal. But we will see during the race what I can do with the team day by day."
Peter Sagan (Cannondale) won the prologue of the Tour of Alberta
Photo credit © Jonathan Devich/epicimages.us
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