SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — Lasse Norman Hansen of Denmark rode on his own for nearly 45 kilometres to win Stage 5 of the Tour of Alberta on Sunday, his victory ensured when a missed turn by riders behind him eliminated the chance of anyone catching him in the final five kilometres.
In giving Team Cannondale-Garmin its third consecutive stage victory, Hansen and three others broke away from the pack coming off the second last of four dirt sections about 55 kilometres into the race. They quickly opened up a gap of more than two minutes on the peloton and after riding together for nearly 100 kilometres, Hansen broke away on the own, opening a gap of about 90 seconds and maintained that through to the finish line. He finished the 206-kilometre stage run in constant rain and single-digit temperatures in four hours 23 minutes one seconds.
"Simply because I was freezing and wanted to go faster," Hansen said of his decision to break away. "I was freezing all day and I thought these guys are going too slow, I'll never get any heat into my hands again."
Once on his own he said his mindset was simply to "go as fast as you can and measure your effort to the distance to go."
The finish of the stage that began in Edson, Alta., turned into chaos when Sven Erik Bystrom of Norway, alone in second place, missed a turn coming into Spruce Grove, Alta., and the peloton behind him followed the same wrong turn. Officials quickly decided to cut the race short, eliminating the final five kilometres, to prevent the riders, going in two different directions, from running into each other.
"Who knows why?" Technical director Jeff Corbett said of the riders making the wrong turn. "Perhaps the second rider didn't see the marshal and the rest just followed. Something happened in there … not sure what it was."
Laurent Diddier of Luxemburg jumped into second place when he made the correct turn and finished one minute 30 seconds behind Hansen.
"When I come to this point I see one car break, one continue," Diddier, riding for Trek Factory Racing, said of his decision to the make the turn. "I see a marshal standing on the island waving so I went to the right."
Officials decided that because of the situation everyone in the large group behind Diddier would be given the same finishing time as the second-place finisher. Those in the later groups would been given their actual finishing time. There were no sprint points or time bonuses for the finish.
That left the leader's yellow jersey with the Netherland's Bauke Mollema of Trek Factory Racing with a total time of 17 hours 35 minutes. Adam Yates of Orice GreenEdge remains second, five second behind, with Tom Jelte Slagter of Cannondale-Garmin third, 26 seconds off the pace.
"I would like to have won the proper way but satisfied I would have made it to the line anyway," Hansen said of the way the race finished. "I'm very confident (I would have won)."
Sunday's stage was mostly downhill, in sharp contrast to the previous two stages in and around Jasper, Alta. But the stage also had several dirt sections, originally 56 kilometres of off-pavement riding. But with rain that started Saturday and continued most of Sunday, race organizers dropped the longest section of dirt road. The left the riders to deal with about 21 kilometres of muddy, slippery roads that led to several crashes as riders tried to manoeuvre their way through water puddles and hidden potholes.
"If you're out in front you can see what you have to see," Hansen said. "The only thing dangerous about it was the loose sections with the deep mud."
Diddier said riding in the peloton made it much harder because of the mud thrown up by riders ahead.
"Your glasses, you don't see anything. Take them off then you get it in your eyes."
The final stage goes Monday, leaving from Spruce Grove and finishing 124 kilometres later in downtown Edmonton.
John Korobanik, The Canadian Press