National champion Matteo Dal-Cin among Canadians to race in Tour of Alberta
Dal-Cin will race with the Maple Leaf on his back for the first time since winning championship in June
Matteo Dal-Cin's first race since he was crowned Canada's road cycling champion will be on home pavement.
The 26-year-old from Ottawa will wear the Maple Leaf when the Tour of Alberta stage race opens Friday in Jasper.
"I haven't got to actually race in it yet," Dal-Cin said. "I don't really know what it's like to race in it. I'm looking forward to seeing what that feels like and representing my country in the Maple Leaf."
Dal-Cin, who races professionally for U.S.-based Rally Cycling, outsprinted Marc-Antoine Soucy in his hometown to claim the Canadian men's title in June.
The six-foot-five, 170-pound Dal-Cin didn't compete in the recent Tour of Utah because of injury. But his Rally teammate Rob Britton of Regina claimed the overall victory in Utah and is one to watch in Alberta.
The Tour of Alberta has contracted a second straight year from five days to four. The event was six days its first three years with a prologue followed by five stages.
While announcing a multi-year sponsorship with ATB Financial earlier this year, Alberta Peleton Association chairman Peter Verhesen said a more compact race takes pressure off host communities while the province's economy is still recovering.
At 546 kilometres — down from 865 km two years ago — this year's tour has drawn 88 riders from 15 countries riding for 11 pro teams, according to organizers.
The Tour of Alberta retains its Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) classification of 2.1, which is the third tier of stage racing behind Grand Tours such as the Tour de France and the second tier that includes the seven-day Tour of Utah.
Alberta's race opens with a 165-kilometre mountain stage from Jasper to Marmot Basin ski resort.
Saturday's leg is 140 kilometres near Spruce Grove followed by circuits of 116 and 124 kilometres in Edmonton on Sunday and Monday respectively.
American Robin Carpenter of Holowesko Citadel won't return to defend his title after crashing in Utah.
The field includes Dutchman and Cannondale-Drapac star Tom Jelte-Slagter, who won the Jasper mountain stage in 2015 and finished third overall.
"It will be really important for our team to perform well the first day," Jelte-Slagter said. "I remember how the climb is and the wind as well as the gradient of the climb can play a factor."
Canadian content includes former national champions Ryan Roth of Bright, Ont., who rides for Silber Pro Cycling, and Garneau-Quebecor's Bruno Langlois of Matane, Que.
Ottawa's Alex Cataford finished fifth overall as the top Canadian in 2016. The 23-year-old returns riding for United Healthcare.
Alumni of the Tour of Alberta includes two-time world road champion Peter Sagan of Slovakia and 2015 Tour of Alberta champion Bauke Mollema, who captured a stage in this year's Tour de France.