Contributed by Jordan Cheyne
The Quebec races are just difficult enough to bring the sport’s very best to the fore while still providing intensely tactical and nail biting finales. This year’s field boasted stars ranging from classics specialists Sagan, Chavanel and Van Avermaet to Grand Tour contenders like Evans, Contador and Chris Froome. Looking down the start list there were dozens of men with the pedigree to win one of these Canadian classics. But who would be the champions in 2013? Only 400km and 6500m of elevation through urban Quebec could answer that question.
Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec: 202km
The punchy and undulating circuit through Quebec City is as demanding as it is historic. Each 12.6km circuit is highlighted by a 3-part stair step climb from the banks of the St. Lawrence river all the way up to the finish line on the Grand Allée in the centre of Old Quebec. The first effective breakaway of the day slipped away very early and consisted of just 3 riders: Tiago Machado of Radioshack-Trek, Valerio Agnoli of Astana and Peio Bilbao of Euskatel.
The early 3 man break
Movistar and Cannondale had everything under control back in the peloton.
Cannondale and Movistar quietly controlled the field until, with 7 laps remaining, BMC started the fireworks and launched an impressive 3-man attack in pursuit of the day’s break. Movistar, Astana and Katusha also sent a rider with this powerful chase group, which quickly reeled in the 3 leaders. The BMC riders, including superstar Tejay Van Garderen, recognized their tactical advantage and threw themselves into the move, putting pressure on every other team in the race.
BMC certainly lit up the race with this move.
Lampre-Merida, Saxo-Tinkoff and Cannondale all contributed to a searing 40km chase that tore the field apart at speeds averaging 47kmh. The unrelenting work by Cannondale finally brought back the move with just over 3 laps to go. The field reacted with perfect timing, immediately serving up another flurry of attacks and a new 5-man breakaway for the boys in lime green to chase.
Cannondale were clearly on a mission for their leader Peter Sagan and they held a steady grip on the break and brought it back with 20km remaining. On the final lap Canadian headliner Ryder Hesjedal attacked savagely on the Col de la Montagne, keeping his chain on the big ring all the way up the 13% ramp. On the second “stair step” of the climb, the Col de la Potasse, Nikki Terpstra (Omega-Pharma-Quickstep) made a decidedly more powerful move and flew past Hesjedal to take a 30 second gap on the obviously fatigued main field.
With Terpstra within reach, Sagan tipped his cards early and detonated the race with 3km still to climb to the finish. BMC’s Greg Van Amermaet volleyed back on the Polasse and the pair joined Terpstra. Sagan looked positively pouty after this development and refused to pull the group. With less than a kilometer remaining an elite group of 8 chasers joined the leading trio. Out of nowhere Robert Gesink burst to the front and led out the sprint past the fading pair. The crowd roared and Gesink bore down on the finish line to hold off his exhausted rivals for a fantastic win. French champion Arthur Vichot crossed the line second just ahead of Van Avermaet while a beleaguered Sagan freewheeled in for 10th.
Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec Results:
1 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 4:58:13
2 Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ.fr
3 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
4 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Garmin-Sharp
5 Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar Team
6 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
7 Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
8 Matti Breschel (Den) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
9 Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano
10 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:00:06
Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal: 202km
Sunday’s race in Montreal provided a different and possibly more difficult challenge for the 164-rider World Tour peloton. The 12.1 km course through Montreal is dominated by a 1.5km long climb of Camilien-Houde starting at the beginning of each lap. After a small respite, the riders are hit with the short, stinging ramp of the Polytecnique climb before an undulating and slightly technical 6km run in to the uphill finishing straight. The day totals a daunting 3900m of climbing but that fact did not stop riders from attacking early on once again.
The Canadian National Team’s Zach Bell highlighted the day’s break of 7 riders who were allowed to gain up to 5 minutes on the peloton. Back in the peloton Chris Froome was obviously feeling good as Team Sky commanded the chase and gradually brought up the tempo to quickly bring back the move. With Omega Pharma, Sky and Cannondale all driving at the front any attempts to bridge were stymied and the break was swiftly caught at the 150km mark.
Suddenly it was a wide-open race of aggression and attrition as riders jumped off the front of the peloton almost as frequently as they fell off the back. A struggling David Veilleux made a poignant farewell to his career as a professional as he climbed of his bike and into the arms of his family.
As if to provide contrast, Quebec’s next young hopeful Antoine Duchesne launched a bold attack soon after Veilleux’s abandon. In a counter attack, a highpowered group of 10 including Alberto Contador escaped and stretched their lead to a threatening 24 seconds with 20km to go. However, a newly motivated Peter Sagan soon recognized the danger and launched a sensational bridging attack that brought the race back together with 1 lap remaining.
The finale played out much like the previous race with one major exception: This time Sagan was on lethal form. Michael Albasini (Orica-Greenedge) made a brave solo attack up the first climb and was followed by BMC’s Amael Moinard. This time it was Francaise des Jeux that kept the move in check for their fastman Vichot. With Albasini in sight, Radioshack’s Jan Bakelants ignited a firestorm of aggression, which resulted in total chaos. Gesink managed to steal an advantage but Sagan calmly reeled him in with the other favorites desperately following his wheel.
Gesink attacked again going into the day’s final climb and Hesjedal followed. There was moment of hesitation and then Sagan made his move. The young
Slovakian rocketed away and made his opponents look utterly helpless. Almost within the blink of an eye, the race was decided and Sagan soloed to the line to take what appeared to be an effortless win. Behind fan favourite Ryder Hesdjedal made a gritty final effort to take 3rd place just behind Simone Ponzi of Astana.
For Sagan it was his 21st victory of the year and a dominant show of form before the upcoming World Championships. And for the Quebec fans it was the finish to another weekend of thrilling action from the superstars of international cycling.
Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal Results:
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling 5:20:07
2 Simone Ponzi (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:04
3 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp
4 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:00:07
5 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Lampre-Merida
6 Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar Team
7 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana Pro Team
8 Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Belkin Pro Cycling 0:00:09
9 Jon Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
10 Jan Bakelants (Bel) RadioShack Leopard