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Dumoulin dominates Tour of Alberta prologue, Canada's Bell in top 10

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Canada's Julien Gagne during the prologue of the Tour of Alberta cycling race in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

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Canada's Julien Gagne during the prologue of the Tour of Alberta cycling race in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY - Tom Dumoulin smartly navigated jet leg and shook off the effects of higher altitude to dominate the Tour of Alberta prologue Tuesday. The white cowboy hat gave him a little trouble as he put in on backwards.

The 23-year-old from the Netherlands chose an early start number of 26 in the field 118 riders to ease the impact of the eight-hour difference in time zones.

After laying down a sub six-minute time in the time trial at Canada Olympic Park, Dumoulin watched and waited for 90 minutes as the rest of the field tried to beat him and failed.

"It was my own decision and I knew if I had a fast time I needed to wait a long time," the Dutch national time trial champion said.

"In Holland, it's eight hours later, so I decided to start as early. It felt like starting in the middle of the night, so the earlier the better."

Dumoulin heads into the first of five stages with a 14-second cushion on prologue runner-up Serghei Tvetcov of Romania. Tom Danielson of the U.S. was 17.01 seconds back in third. Zach Bell of Watson Lake, Yukon, was the top Canadian in eighth.

Riders from 19 countries rolled off the start ramp Tuesday. Wednesday's Stage 1 is 143 kilometres of laps in and around Lethbridge. The 734-kilometre race concludes Sunday in Edmonton.

Tuesday's four-kilometre prologue was gentle until the last 1.3 km. Cyclists then climbed 100 metres over six switchbacks to a finish line above the sliding track and ski jumps built for the 1988 Winter Olympics.

Dumoulin was one of the few who didn't fade in the final push to the finish line. With a time of five minutes 59.70 seconds, the Giant-Shimano team rider was only the man to go under six minutes.

"The altitude is 1,200 metres and I'm coming from sea level," Dumoulin pointed out. "You notice the difference, but eventually it didn't make a big difference in the result.

"I kept some energy for the last hill and it worked out pretty well."

Bell of Team Smartstop was 22 seconds behind Dumoulin. The two-time Olympian in track cycling led three Canadians into the top 10 as Christian Meier of Sussex, N.B., was ninth, followed by Ryan Roth of Guelph, Ont., in 10th.

"This is kind of where I picked up cycling, living in Calgary, so I was pretty familiar with the hill and the course," said Bell, who was a wrestler at the University of Calgary before a switch to cycling.

Afternoon showers halted in time to provide dry pavement and a temperature of about 14 degrees at race time.

Dennis Rohan of Australia won the inaugural Tour of Alberta champion last year, but he was assigned to the Tour of Spain by BMC Racing and thus didn't return to defend his title.

Garmin-Sharp also sent Canadian cycling star Ryder Hesjedal to Spain, but did provide Tour de France stage winner Ramunas Navardauskas of Lithuania and Tour of Utah victor Danielson to Alberta. Navardauskas was 44th in the prologue.

Belkin's Steven Kruijswijk of the Netherlands, who was 15th in this year's Tour de France, was 23rd.

Edmonton's Ryan Anderson was eighth overall last year to earn the Maple Leaf jersey as the top Canadian. One of 27 Canadians in the field, Anderson was 15th on Tuesday.

They're riding for $125,000 in prize money and the overall leader's yellow jersey, as well as other jerseys awarded to the top Canadian, best sprinter and climber, top prospect and the biggest move up in each stage.

"It was a question who would be there after the prologue," Dumoulin said. "I will do everything with the team to get this jersey home."

Thursday's Stage 2 is a 145-kilometre dash from Innisfail to Red Deer with a two-lap detour around Sylvan Lake. Friday's Stage 3 is 157 kilometres from Wetaskiwin to CFB Edmonton via Fort Saskatchewan.

The riders will hit some gravel patches on Saturday's 163k leg from Edmonton into Sherwood Park. The final stage is 11 laps of an 11-km loop through downtown Edmonton.

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