Stage two of the Tour of Alberta started with overcast skies and the threat of a cold, wet day in the saddle. Rolling out of the picturesque Delta Lodge in Kananaskis, the peloton rolled north towards the town of Olds. It wasn’t long until the wind and rain started to batter the field. With a long, flat ride across the open plains, the team settled in for a long day of protecting Evan Huffman and Shane Kline. In the end, it would be Huffman again leading the charge for Rally Cycling.
“Halfway through the stage, the rain started to come down which led to 90-kilometers of being cold, wet and uncomfortable” – Rob Britton
The peloton had barely turned a pedal in anger before three riders rolled off the front. The trio was comprised of Tanner Putt (UnitedHealthcare), Travis Samuel (H&R Block) and Alexis Cartier (Canadian National Team). With the peloton content to let them go, they quickly established a gap of 1:50. Their advantage held as the rain started to fall en route to the only King of the Mountains of the day. On the short, steep climb Samuel was dislodge and would be reabsorbed by the peloton.
Out front, Cartier and Putt continued to work well together and extended their lead to 2:50 with 30-kilometers let to race. Behind, Axeon - Hagens Berman led the chase in defense of Colin Joyce’s leader’s jersey. As the finish line approached, the duo’s advantage began to fall and at 10-kilometers to go their lead was down to 1:00 with Holowesko – Citadel applying the pressure. Despite the pace of the peloton, the speed wasn’t high enough to stop attacks from going off the front. With the pace disrupted the duo’s advantage increased to 1:10 with just 5-kilometers remaining.
With the victory slipping away, Danny Pate went to the front of the peloton and drove the pace before Huffman, sitting fourth on general classification, attacked off the front in a bid to take the stage and the leader’s jersey. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as Putt dropped Cartier in the finishing straight to take the win. In the closing meters, the peloton bore down on Huffman erasing the possibility of him taking the jersey. He would cross the line in fourth for the second day in a row, closing the gap to the overall lead by two seconds.
“I saw a moment of hesitation with 5-kilometers to go, and decided to attack,” said Huffman. “The plan had been to help Shane or Pierrick (Naud) in the sprint, but it looked like the break wasn’t going to come back. I took a shot and I had really good legs – I was able to drive it all the way to the line. Unfortunately Tyler Williams (Axeon - Hagens Berman) went with me, sat on and out sprinted me for third. His teammate is in the jersey so that’s fair. I am again disappointed to miss out on the podium and the time bonus, but I picked up a couple of seconds so it was a good day overall.”
With the wet and windy conditions, team mechanics and soigneurs had extra work keeping the riders as warm and dry as possible.
“We were changing the riders gloves from the team car,” said team mechanic Rick Barrow. “They would ride up one side, put their hand in the window and I would pull off the glove. I would then rub their hand to warm it up before putting on a new glove. They would then ride around to the other side of the car and we would do the same thing. It was a brutal day.”
Soigneur Jen Woodward took us through the changes the riders make in their nutrition for cold days in the saddle.
“In addition to the normal selection of Clif Bars, Bloks and gels, we make them a variety of rice cakes, oat balls and little pastries. Because of the weather, they usually eat more so it’s good for them to have a wide selection to choose from. We also prepare warm tea for the bottles in the feed zone. The tea is at the finish as well to help the reheat as soon as possible. Finally, we make them a warm dinner on the bus right after the race.”