Stage 4 here at Alberta featured the queen stage as far as the climbing days go. We had a 100 mile day that consisted of 3 circuits and one final climb of about 15 km to finish the stage off. It was nice to be able to sleep in today and not have to be up early and do another long transfer. We didn’t have a start time until 11:30 and the start of the stage was just a couple miles away from the hotel. Once we set off for the start it was another cold day with it being in the low 40’s but the weather forecast finally looked good with clear skies later on and temperatures rising to the high 50’s.
Once we started the stage I was happy that the legs were feeling good. We had a pretty fast start to the stage with riders trying to get into the break and finally after about 35 minutes of racing 3 riders got a gap and that looked like it was the move. Once that was rolling I pulled over to side to take the first nature break with some other guys as the field was moving pretty slowly. Once I got back to rolling and into the caravan I noticed the field was out of sight and I guess there was some more attacking going on which caused the racing to be back on and now myself and a large group were coming back through the caravan for a bit longer then expected. Nothing too badly to concern as we finally made it back as the race eased up again. The next few hours were pretty standard, but fortunately the sun came out and started warming up so we got to shed some layers of clothing. It was also nice since because the start of this race we have mainly been racing on long straight highways but today we got to do a pretty good/scenic circuit through Jasper National Forrest. It was a bit of a lumpy course as well so that always makes it more enjoyable other then just long flat straightaways.
Once we got onto the third and final lap the racing really began as we hit about 30 km from the finish. We had a slight downhill all the way to the climb, so it was full gas with all the teams fighting to be up front. The Hincapie boys did a great job as we had our whole team lined up right towards the front and out of trouble. We finally hit the turn with 15 km to go and the boys delivered us safe to the front of the group as the climb began. Trek kept a real fast pace as the climb kicked up and riders were just shedding from the field. I’ve noticed that with being up in elevation here and the climbs not super long plus the presence of the World Tour teams this has been the fastest speed I’ve ever climbed. As we were going up the first pitches I noticed I was in my big ring for quiet a while and also staying in my drops to get the best draft. The action started quickly as about 10 km to go there were already attacks going from the big teams. It seemed as though it would just be attack, then counter, then attack, then counter as the group kept getting smaller and smaller. I was feeling pretty good, so I made the mistake of following a couple moves as I got excited that I could go when they went but after a couple of those and still seeing we had 5 km to go I started to feel the pace set in. I’m trying to learn and absorb as much as I can at these bigger races since Tour of Utah was my first and now I’m here at Alberta and today I learned to be patient. All my little moves I was following so far out didn’t do much good for me as it just wore me down. At about 3 km to go there were maybe 20 of us left and fortunately I was still there with Dion and Toms. Myself and Toms were towards the tail end so I moved him up to the front and slotted right behind Trek as we hit another pitch. It seemed as though there was a lull in the group and out of nowhere my teammate Andz came by throwing in another attack from the back. Once everyone jumped over onto him, then Cannondale-Garmin counter attacked and that really split the group as I started losing ground. There were now two groups as I was with a couple other guys behind that and I could see a group of about 5 not too far in front as we hit 2 km to go. Once I saw the other two guys I was with were just going backwards I soldiered on to catch the group in front of me. I caught the tail end of them going into 1 km to go and at about 400 meters I hit out giving everything I could just counting down the meters to the finish. I crossed the line 13th on the stage 49 seconds down on the winner. The same result as yesterday, at least I’m consistent. I was a bit bummed out on the result after because I felt pretty good today, but looking back there were a lot of little errors I need to work on to save as much as possible for the end.
Dion and Toms had great finishes though as Dion came in 4th and Toms 6th. Those guys are now 5th and 6th on GC and I dropped down to 12th. Andz is also 14th so we have 4 guys in the top 15 which isn’t too bad I’d say if you look at the teams/names on the results sheet.
Two more stages to go.
Jon Hornbeck, rides professionally for the Hincapie Racing Team and is also is the owner of Fast Tours Cycling.
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