While many predicted a certain Norwegian winner from Sky for this race, few would have put their money on Lars Petter Nordhaug over Edvald Boasson Hagen. But that was how it finished as the Grand Prix series in Canada came to a close. Nordhaug made a late attack and caught the peloton off-guard, surging in front of his fellow escapees as it seemed he was fading away. This was the biggest win of the 28-year old’s career, with Moreno Moser (Liquigas-Cannondale) second and Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) third.
Cyril Gautier (Europcar) took the best climber’s prize after getting into the day’s long breakaway, whilst it was unsurprisingly Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) who was the highest placed Canadian rider, finishing 23rd, 11 seconds in front of his nearest challenger David Veilleux (Europcar).
The early breakaway
Along with Gautier in the early break were Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Manuele Boaro (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) in the day’s early escape, while Kristjan Koren (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Simone Ponzi (Astana) floated behind the three leaders in an unsuccessful attempt to bridge across. While Gautier will have been rather pleased with his day’s efforts, the others were left frustrated as the gap was steadily closed down until it was all back together with just 20km to go.
The lead group only achieved an advantage of four minutes, and they weren’t helped when Boaro was dropped, leaving the two leaders resigned to being inevitably swallowed up by a peloton which was continuously full of impatient riders wanting to attack themselves, with Dennis Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol) opening up a lead of around 20 seconds before being caught with the leaders.
Even strong riders like Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Marcus Burghardt (BMC) all looked interested in trying to break away, before deciding better of it or being closed down by those who deemed it too dangerous to allow such riders to escape.
The greatest danger came when a seven-man break formed a small gap, with Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Michal Golas (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Luca Paolini (Katusha), Andriy Grivko (Astana), Tim Wellens (Lotto-Belisol), Anthony Geslin (FDJ-BigMat) and Sebastien Minard (AG2R La Mondiale) forming the escape. Voeckler attempted to bridge the gap, but the pacemaking being done by BMC meant that the move didn’t stick.
David Tanner (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) tried a solo move as it all came back together with 11km remaining, but despite opening up a handful of seconds on the bunch, holding off such a marauding peloton was a nigh-on impossible task. Veilleux also tried a move before Arthur Vichot (FDJ-BigMat), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) laid their cards on the table, but Sky did an excellent job of dragging the select 25-man group back up to the front for their man Boasson Hagen.
The winning move
With 5km to go Nordhaug made an unexpected attack, forcing Moser and Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil) to go with him. All of a sudden the three leaders became four, as Kolobnev made a stinging attack to surge in front of the leaders and open up a gap with 500 metres to go. But the Russian faded, seemingly handing Moser the win, as Nordhaug ran out of steam.
But, having left it to the dying moments, the Norwegian snuck by the Italian to take the victory by two seconds. Gerrans, the winner in Quebec on Friday, led the peloton home in fourth place, just ahead of Boasson Hagen. Last year’s winner Rui Costa (Movistar) was a further second behind in eighth.
For the third year running Canada provided the WorldTour with some of its most exciting racing of the season. There’s no doubt these races have been a superb addition to the calendar, and are always ones to look forward to. The parcours guarantees there is always an aggressive, chaotic finish and, as shown in this race, there’s usually an unpredictable winner.
In terms of the racing, it was interesting to see Kolobnev look so strong here. The Russian was a favourite to take the rainbow stripes a couple of years ago, but has faded from the cycling consciousness since his incorrect positive test in last year’s Tour de France. I wonder if he’s been quietly targeting the World Championships this season, as he could fancy the hilly course.
1. Lars Petter Nordhaug (Sky Procycling) 5:28:29
2. Moreno Moser (Liquigas-Cannondale) +0:02
3. Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha Team) same time
4. Simon Gerrans (Orica – GreenEdge) +0:04
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) s/t
6. Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM) s/t
7. Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol) s/t
8. Rui Costa (Movistar) s/t
9. Luca Paolini (Katusha) s/t
10. Tony Gallopin (RadioShack-Nissan) s/t