Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) made a superb late attack in a thrilling finale to the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec, opening up a gap with Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) before beating him in the sprint for the line. The 32-year-old – who took the prestigious Milan-San Remo race earlier in the year – is looking good for the World Championships, with this victory coming off a second place at the Clásica San Sebastián.
The best climber’s prize went to the aggressive Bruno Langlois (SpiderTech-C10), while the award for the best Canadian rider went not to the likes of Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) or David Veilleux (Europcar), but to the wonderfully named Francois Parisien (SpiderTech-C10), who finished tenth.
The early breakaway
There were eight men in the first real escape – the initial group which had got an advantage grew too large, and was caught 45km in. Thomas Rohregger (RadioShack-Nissan), Vladimir Gusev (Katusha), Danilo Wyss (BMC), Tom Leezer (Rabobank), Lucas Euser (SpiderTech-C10), Sandy Casar (FDJ-BigMat), Hugo Houle (SpiderTech-C10) and Marsh Cooper (Canadian National Team) made up this eight-man group whose advantage was allowed to grow to over six minutes.
Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for the contenders’ teams to hit the front. Thomas Voeckler‘s Europcar and Ryder Hesjedal‘s Garmin-Sharp did the lion’s share of work on the peloton, with the breakaway’s lead reducing almost as quickly as the number of riders in the race. Casar was the first rider to be caught, and would retire soon after, with one of the race’s favourites Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) joining him after toiling at the back of the bunch for a while.
With the breakaway and its lead shrinking with every lap of the Québec course, there were a few counter-attacks from the peloton, but none that managed to stick. With just over 20km and just under two laps remaining, it was effectively all back together, with Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) lurking ominously at the front.
The breakaway being caught so early inevitably meant that more attacks went off the front of the peloton, with Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) and Bruno Langlois opening up a gap of around 20 seconds. Langlois was there to collect points for the best climber classification – which he did eventually win – but the duo created enough concern to warrant a hard chase by the peloton.
French duo Jerome Pineau (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Christophe Kern (Europcar) tried to bridge the gap to the two leaders, before being quickly closed down. However, Pineau’s teammate Dries Devenyns did eventually make it across, with Langlois dropping backwards.
However despite the strong lead duo they couldn’t hold off the charging peloton, and came back together pretty quickly with about 4km to go.
Gerrans vs Van Avermaet
Then, suddenly Van Avermaet launched out of the bunch rapidly, quickly followed by Gerrans. Sagan decided after a vital few seconds of hesitation that he could wait no longer, and attempted to accelerate over to the two leaders. But it was too late. The sprint for the line was to be contested by Gerrans and Van Avermaet, two fast finishers and two riders who enjoy the false flat finish. Gerrans had led for almost the entire final kilometre, and continued to lead out the sprint right up until Van Avermaet fired for the line.
Surprisingly, the Australian national champion then had the energy and wherewithal to surge past the Belgian once more, and Gerrans took the victory. Sagan was swept up by the stampeding peloton, eventually finishing outside the top ten.
It was an interesting race for quite a few reasons, principally to see who is and isn’t on form for the World Championships. Clearly, Simon Gerrans will be one of the favourites for the finish on the top of the Cauberg, with Peter Sagan also demonstrating that he is riding himself back into the form which saw him win three stages at the Tour de France.
However, at the opposite end of the spectrum is Edvald Boasson Hagen, who will be hoping that today was just an off-day or jour sans, as otherwise his form is looking poor ahead of a World Championships which may already be too hilly for his liking.
An honourable mention must go to Rui Costa (Movistar) and Fabian Wegmann (Garmin-Sharp), both of whom rode excellent races to take third and eighth respectively. Rui Costa won last year’s Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal, this year’s Tour de Suisse and finished inside the top 20 in the Tour de France. He is developing into a superb jack-of-all-trades, and at only 25 will no doubt be a coveted signing.
Wegmann is a comparatively elderly rider at 32, and while always appearing strong on these sorts of races, has very little to show for it on his palmarès. In fact, save for the mountains classification at the 2004 Giro d’Italia, his three national championships are just about the most impressive thing on his record. It’s therefore nice to see him riding strong, and he’ll be hopeful of more good results before the season is out.
1. Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) 4:53:04
2. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) same time
3. Rui Costa (Movistar) +0:04
4. Luca Paolini (Katusha) s/t
5. Tom-Jelte Slagter (Rabobank) s/t
6. Diego Ulissi (Lampre-ISD) s/t
7. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) s/t
8. Fabian Wegmann (Garmin-Sharp) s/t
9. Gerard Ciolek (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) s/t
10. Francois Parisien (Spidertech-C10) s/t