While fellow Australian Cadel Evans sprinted ahead to win the fourth of five stages of the Tour of Alberta, Rohan Dennis didn’t feel the need for speed on Saturday.
Instead, Dennis of Team Garmin-Sharp was content to ride with the peloton, or main field of riders, which allowed him to keep the yellow jersey, signifying the overall race leader.
“There was no need to bring it back and there was no need to try and waste any energy for a stage win or any stress,” said Dennis. “It was not a problem at all.”
Although Dennis finished well back of Evans, his overall time of 15 hours six minutes 20 seconds puts him in top spot going into Sunday’s final stage, which starts in Okotoks and finishes in downtown Calgary.
“Obviously to win the inaugural Alberta Tour would be a huge bonus and it’s going to cap off the rest of my season,” said Dennis, who won Friday’s third stage to vault into top spot and give himself a chance to race for the overall victory on Sunday.
Dennis said it would be a “great honour” to win the inaugural Tour of Alberta.
“I haven’t won an actual road race, not a tour, outside of Australia,” Dennis said. “If it doesn’t happen, I’ll be happy either way.”
Evans, who won the 2011 Tour de France, commended Dennis for being in contention among a strong field of riders.
“Leading the race isn’t easy,” said Evans, who captured the fourth stage in a time of 3:57:18 to move up to 17th place overall, 7:17 behind Dennis. “The level is pretty high here.”
Evans was among a five-man break that sprinted to the finish line in Black Diamond, where the 169-kilometre stage also started.
“Sometimes you have to try and put that pressure on the others,” said Evans, who had a strong finish down the stretch to edge out Simon Geschke at the line. “In the end it came together. I was a little bit lucky today. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the breakaway that’s gone to the finish to be quite honest.”
Tom Jelte Slagter finished third, while Benjamin Day placed fourth just ahead of Canadian national team member Antoine Duchesne of Quebec City.
“Today I was riding with a Tour de France winner and I was able to ride with him,” Duchesne said. “It showed that everything is possible, wherever you’re from.”
Duchesne was awarded the blue jersey as Most Aggressive Rider for his efforts and jumped into 22nd overall three seconds behind Ottawa’s Alexander Cataford.
“It was really amazing,” Duchesne said. “It’s the first time I got on the podium like that and have the chance to get a jersey. Especially here in my country with the crowd, that was a really good opportunity for me having the chance to get on the podium like that.”
Overall, Dennis has an 18-second lead over Brent Bookwalter, and a 30-second lead over Damiano Caruso.
Ryan Anderson of Spruce Grove, Alta., held onto the Best Canadian jersey for the second day in a row. Anderson is in eighth place overall, 56 seconds behind Dennis.
With a ninth place finish on Saturday, Ryan Roth of Kitchener, Ont., moved into 23rd spot, 9:50 behind Dennis, while Victoria’s Ryder Hesjedal, the 2012 Giro d’Italia winner, is well out of contention 17:21 back in 31th.
Victoria’s Nic Hamilton, a native Calgarian, finished seventh in the fourth stage to jump from 112th overall and into 38th, 17:36 behind Dennis.