Wouter Wippert sprinted to victory in Edmonton on Monday to deliver a third straight stage win for Cannondale-Drapac at Tour of Alberta. Along with the win, Wippert secured the sprint jersey. Stage three winner Alex Howes finished third overall, tied on time with teammate Tom-Jelte Slagter in fourth.
“This has been an awesome week,” said Wippert. “Teamwork makes a lot of things possible. Everyone was fully committed, and knowing that always brings confidence.”
Monday’s final stage saw the peloton return to Edmonton for 11 times around a 11.3-kilometer circuit. An escape of six went clear on the opening lap. A chase group of six bridged across on lap two. Twelve swelled to 16 on lap five when a new chase group connected with the leaders.
Although #GreenArgyle lacked representation in the move, Wippert said team tactics were never under threat.
“We never panicked,” said Wippert. “We went in today to keep Alex [Howes] third overall and win the sprint. The team had everything under control all afternoon to reach these goals.”
A crash on lap eight caused confusion in the bunch. Sep Kuss (Rally), who started the stage in second overall, touched wheels with a teammate and hit the ground. In the post-crash chaos, another group of six riders forced clear from the field. At this point, the breakaway’s advantage had fallen to 20-seconds, and the gap was easily bridgeable.
With the breakaway’s size already verging on untenable, Rob Britton (Rally) and Lachlan Norris (UnitedHealthcare) went on the attack. They were joined by three of their former break-mates to form a new leading group of five. When another 14 riders joined the five out front, Cannondale-Drapac decided it was time to chase.
All but one rider, Matteo Dal-Cin (Rally), had rejoined the peloton by the start of the final lap. The Canadian road champion had a 10-second advantage at the two-kilometer mark.
“When we started the last lap, it looked like the break was done, but then Matteo attacked and got a pretty big gap,” said Wippert. “We heard on the radio ‘Go! Go! Go! It’s now or you’re going to be too late’ And that’s when we started with the team going pretty full gas.
“I was a little bit worried that we would run out of people, but everyone did 300 or 400 meters more than they were suppose to do, and that’s how we ended up pretty comfortable with three guys left in the last 500 meters.”
Wippert followed Kristijan Koren through the final right-hand bend and onto the finishing stretch. Howes took over from Koren, pulling off 300 meters from the finish line.
“The guys lined up the whole bunch and brought the speed up very high,” said Wippert. “That way I could start my sprint in the pole position. I still had to finish it off, but my teammates made it a lot easier for me to win with the way they race.”