The Tour of Alberta ended up being a pretty memorable experience for Whistler pro cyclist Ben Chaddock, even if there was one stage that was completely forgettable.
Though his Team SmartStop-Mountain Khakis crew had an impressive week riding against a field that included several UCI Pro Tour teams, Chaddock left the six-day race with a broken collar bone suffered during Friday’s (Sept. 6) Stage 3.
“If we just forget about Stage 3, we had a pretty good tour,” Chaddock said Monday (Sept. 9) after returning home to Whistler. “I was pretty happy with it.”
Chaddock’s Pro Continental squad put a rider in the top 10 on two stages and had a man in the break of Sunday’s (Sept. 8) final stage.
But Chaddock had to ride the last two days of the tour injured, determined to finish the race despite a serious crash near the end of Stage 3.
“It was a very challenging day and really the day that everyone had been waiting for. The wind was very high that day and the crosswinds came up and it was just war from Kilometre Zero,” Chaddock said of Friday’s stage.
Part of a pack well off the lead on Friday, the team up front decided to push the pace for a few minutes before scaling the speed back abruptly, which led to a pile-up that Chaddock was right in the middle of.
“People got pushed into the gravel and I was five wheels back, and with the accordion effect of everyone stomping on their brakes, I didn’t have a chance,” he said. “I was the first guy to hit the deck.
“I got back up and finished the stage. I knew I had broken something, but I didn’t want to get an X-Ray. I really wanted to finish the race. The next two days were pretty challenging. I wasn’t able to do anything for the team really. I could cover some moves, but I couldn’t get out of the saddle.”
It wasn’t the first turn of bad luck on the tour for Chaddock, as he also flatted during the Sept. 3 prologue that kicked off the race.
But if there was a silver lining on the injury, it was that the Tour of Alberta was Chaddock’s last scheduled race of the season, so he can now take some time to recover at home. And although he may have returned from Alberta wounded, Chaddock was thrilled with the tour experience overall, having had the chance to ride against world-renowned pros like former Tour de France winner Cadel Evans and other stars like Canada’s own Ryder Hesjedal, Peter Sagan and David Millar. The overall winner was Team Garmin-Sharp’s Rohan Dennis.
“It was a blast. You’re riding with all of these world-class pros, but by the end of the week you feel in the peloton that they respect what we’re doing, respect us as riders and you kind of join that club of riders and teams that are doing these large events,” he said. “That was pretty special and the team got a lot of confidence out of that.”
Chaddock also said the enthusiasm from fans along the route — be it near the small towns the race passed through or on the final day heading into Calgary — was inspiring.
“Riding into Calgary was amazing. I don’t even know how many thousands of people were there and it was just unbelievable,” said Chaddock. “The whole experience was just top-notch.
“When the peloton came through the KOM (on Stage 4) it was pouring rain and there were just tons of people out there — this is an hour-and-a-half from Calgary — in the middle of a field. There were so many people out there that … the peloton had to get skinnier for everyone to go through. There was definitely a little bit of that Tour de France feeling.”
Though his first campaign with SmartStop is now at a close, the next few weeks remain key for Chaddock as he looks to sign a contract for the 2014 season. The 28-year-old would be pleased to return to the squad for another year.
“I’d definitely love to be back. It’s a growing program and I’ve had a lot of fun these last couple weeks,” he said. “Hopefully they share the interest and I’ll be back there, that would be great.”