Australian Rohan Dennis of Team Garmin-Sharp captured the inaugural Tour of Alberta overall title Sept. 8 in front of massive crowds in downtown Calgary, finishing the six-day stage race with an aggregate time of 17 hours, 45 minutes and 40 seconds.
American Brent Bookwalter of BMC Racing finished second and Italian Damiano Caruso of Cannondale Pro Cycling rounded out the podium.
Sunday’s final stage took the elite professional field of 115 cyclists from Okotoks into the centre city of Calgary, Alberta’s largest city. The 130-kilometre course was filled with cycling fans; tens of thousands spectators lined up 10 deep along the four-kilometre circuit in downtown Calgary for the final stage. Slovakia’s Peter Sagan, who won the Prologue in Edmonton Sept. 3 and the following day’s stage, outsprinted the field to capture the final stage.
“I came into this race in pretty good form,” said Dennis, 23. “I really didn’t know how it would play out throughout the week. I guess it played out well. So, I’m a little surprised. It’s the biggest win of my pro career.”
It was Dennis’ first major stage race victory. He took the overall lead on Stage 3 Friday into Drumheller. He held off the top racers on the hilly stage to Black Diamond and maintained his lead all the way into Calgary on Sunday.
As expected, Sagan was a big threat the entire race and entered the race as overall favorite until he lost the race lead in the cross winds of rural Alberta. Sagan, who has won more races than anyone on the international professional circuit this year, won three stages. Late last month, he had won four stages at the USA Pro Challenge.
“This was a very good race for its first year. The crowds were very big and enthusiastic,” Sagan said, adding with a smile: “I never knew there were so many Slovaks in Canada.”
The 900-kilometre race was greeted with large flag-waving crowds throughout the six days in Alberta. The race began in the centre city of Edmonton on Tuesday and crowds continued to grow during the entire route.
Outside the three stage wins by the world’s No. 2-ranked Sagan, the other stages were won by Swissman Sylvan Dillier of BMC Racing, Dennis, and 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans.
“This was a very nice race,” said Evans. “The weather was great. The crowds were large and enthusiastic. The racing was actually quite good. For a first year event, it was incredibly well organized. We’ll see, but, sure, I’d like to come back next year.”
Two years in the making, the province of Alberta celebrated cycling throughout the week from roadside picnics to finish line gatherings, making Canada’s highest-ranked stage race look to the future with great hope.
“It was a spectacular week of racing,” said the Tour of Alberta chairman Brian Jolly. “There were many who doubted we could do an event of this calibre in the province of Alberta. With the support of all our partners, we not only met, but far exceeded all expectations. We now will review and work toward continuing the event for future years.
Final Overall Standings (after Stage 5)
1. Rohan Dennis (Team Garmin-Sharp), Australia, 17 hours, 48 minutes, 40 seconds
2. Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing Team), United States, 17 hours, 48 minutes, 58 seconds
3. Damiano Caruso (Cannondale Pro Cycling), Italy, 17 hours, 49 minutes, 10 seconds
4. Patrick Gretsch (Team Argos-Shimano), Germany, 17 hours, 49 minutes, 11 seconds
5. Robert Gesink (Belkin Pro Cycling Team), Netherlands, 17 hours, 49 minutes, 21 seconds
6. Robert Sweeting (5-Hour Energy P/B Kenda Racing Team) United States, 17 hours, 49 minutes, 34 seconds
7. Francisco Mancebo (5-Hour Energy P/B Kenda Racing Team) Spain, 17 hours, 49 minutes, 35 seconds
8. Ryan Anderson (Optum P/B Kelly Benefit Strategies), Canada, 17 hours, 49 minutes, 36 seconds
9. Matthias Friedemann (Champion System Pro Cycling Team), Germany, 17 hours, 49 minutes, 59 seconds
10. Steven Kruijswijk (Belkin Pro Cycling Team), Netherlands, 17 hours, 50 minutes, 02 seconds
Yellow Jersey (Province of Alberta Leader Jersey) – Rohan Dennis (Team Garmin-Sharp), Australia
Green Jersey (Subway® Sprint Points Jersey) – Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling), Slovakia
Polka Dot Jersey (Budweiser Crown King of the Mountains Jersey) – Tom Jelte Slagter (Belkin Pro Cycling Team), Netherlands
White Jersey (Canadian Western Bank Best Young Rider) – Rohan Dennis (Team Garmin-Sharp), Australia
Maple Leaf (Best Canadian Rider) – Ryan Anderson (Optum P/B Kelly Benefit Strategies), Canada
Blue Jersey (Most Aggressive Rider) – Adam Farabaugh (Equipe Garneau-Quebecor), United States.