Rally Racing team driver Evan Huffman steps up to win Stage 3 of Tour of Alberta

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DRAYTON VALLEY – Evan Huffman led the overall standings when he split from the field with Robin Carpenter in Stage 3 of the Tour of Alberta presented by ATB Financial on Saturday.

Then Huffman realized that to take first place overall, he had to pass Carpenter to the finish line.

Huffman managed to beat Carpenter to take the stage victory and, in the process, snatch the yellow leader’s jersey from Colin Joyce.

“I was mostly thinking about the overall standings, but once we got out on the last lap I started to think about the special a bit,” said Huffman. “But it’s a tricky situation, because you can’t mess around too much because you get caught then.” It’s really those last two corners when you’re trying to sprint, but there wasn’t much time to back up and play and save energy for sprinting.

Huffman, 26, of Rally Racing, took a two-second lead over Carpenter, of Holowesko, Citadel Racing, in the overall standings, leaving Joyce, of Axeon Hagens Berman, in third place, 10 seconds behind.

Carpenter and Huffman entered the stage in third and fourth place, respectively, overall and were able to pull away from the field with 10 km to go in the stage as he reached Drayton Valley.

“We came to town and saw three (runners) together,” Carpenter said. “Then on the next lap, in a loop, it was up the hill with a full crosswind coming from the left and Evan kind of sped up there in the previous lap, so we knew that ‘ was a good place to go. So he walked away and I hadn’t let him out of sight for the last 30 miles, so (went with him).

“Then we had a blast together, then in the last 500 or so, with two corners to do, one left and one left, I was sleeping at the wheel and Evan played well. I looked right and he went left and had a few lengths of the bike on me for the last turn and that was about it. It was well played. “

The 181.2 km third stage started at Rocky Mountain House and headed for Drayton Valley, where riders made three laps of town before reaching the finish line.

A group of eight riders broke away from the peloton halfway through the stage on the long stretch of Highway 22 and were pulled back up just after entering the city limits.

“The wind (Saturday) was definitely a factor,” said Alexander Cataford, who leads the top Canadian classification. “The breakaway took a long time to cover, around 70 to 80 km, which is much longer than normal. All day long you had to be careful and watch where the wind was blowing, because you could have been caught for sure. It was definitely a long day to focus, even mentally, on the road. You had to be careful, you couldn’t turn it off at all for the whole race.

Huffman and Carpenter were in the pursuit party before orchestrating their own breakaway late in the scene. Huffman decided to launch an attack and only Carpenter had enough to stay with him.

“The move was a bit impulsive, to be honest,” Huffman said. “It was just the hardest section of the loop and I just decided to try to attack. I had started a bit in the lap before and just decided to go a little harder next time and it worked.

The victory was the most important of Huffman’s career, who spent time racing in Europe before returning to North America this season. The Californian product has found new life by running closer to home.

“For sure this is obviously the best season I’ve ever had,” Huffman said. “I think I got better every year of racing, but there is a lot more to running than that. I think being a part of this team and being back in the States has made me happier and I have regained some motivation and it really shows in our results this year.

The tour is now heading to Edmonton for the final two legs.

Stage 4 is a 12.1 km time trial starting and ending Sunday at William Hawrelak Park. The tour ends Monday with a 124.1-kilometer circuit through the streets of downtown Edmonton, ending in Churchill Square.

“I did the (course) last year for the first time and it’s definitely hard to defend,” Huffman said. “It’s pretty technical, a lot of ups and downs and it’s generally very aggressive. And given the way the race has been over the past three days, I think it’s probably going to continue to be a lot of attacking, so it’s going to be tough.

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