Belkin’s Robert Gesink became the first rider in history to win two WorldTour races in Canada, adding the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec to his win in Montréal back in 2010. He outsprinted Arthur Vichot (FDJ) and Greg van Avermaet (BMC) in a chaotic finish to take victory.
The first action of the race saw a trio of riders escape, with Tiago Machado (RadioShack-Leopard), Valerio Agnoli (Astana) and Euskaltel-Euskadi youngster Peio Bilbao managing to slip away in the opening few kilometres. However, they were never allowed to gain much more than six minutes, with Peter Sagan‘s Cannondale setting a steady pace on the front of the peloton.
The Italian outfit looked pretty comfortable, though slipped into temporary panic with around 70km remaining when a handful of BMC riders hit the front and managed to break away. They caught the three leaders and were joined by a handful of pursuers, with Tejay van Garderen, Steve Morabito and Amael Moinard the three BMC riders in the lead group of nine.
Cannondale were put in momentary difficulty and had to work hard to keep the break within reach. With 50km to go the gap was just under half a minute, though after some impressive chasing, things were back together a lap later. More attacks were launched as soon as the catch was made, though none looked like seriously sticking.
That was until the penultimate lap, when Omega Pharma-Quick Step powerhouse Niki Terpstra made a trademark solo bid for glory with 15km left. He built up a solid advantage of 25 seconds as he passed the last lap bell, which opened out by a further 15 seconds with 6km left.
Geraint Thomas and Jonathan Tiernan-Locke led the chase for Sky, and the deficit began to fall. With 4km to go, Sagan took things into his own hands, seemingly having no more teammates left to bring Terpstra back. He escaped with BMC’s Greg van Avermaet, and inside 2km caught Tepstra.
An elite group joined the three riders at the front, including Gesink, Vichot, Rui Costa (Movistar) and Simon Geschke (Argos-Shimano). In the disorganised chaos in the final kilometre, Sagan appeared to have simply nothing left to give, and gave up in the dying metres. That proved disastrous for van Avermaet who was locked onto his wheel, with the Belgian beaten to the line by Gesink and Vichot.
Once again Canada hosted a brilliant race, with the parcours producing some fantastic action. The hilly profile encourages aggressive racing, though it’s exactly because of said aggression that Cannondale may have lost today’s race. The inevitable downside of riding with such a dominant favourite as Peter Sagan is that the onus is on his team to do the lion’s share of breakaway-chasing, and so it proved today.
Rather than wait and force other teams into action, the Italian outfit were on the front for almost the entire day. That meant that when the pace really ratcheted up in the final lap, Peter Sagan was left to fend entirely for himself; his teammates having cracked off the back. Unfortunately it cost the Slovak, fading dramatically in the final few hundred metres – and being beaten to the line by a climber. All that work for no reward.
The inevitable questions over whether Sagan still has the form to win the World Championships will no doubt continue to be asked until the road race provides the answer, though anyone writing him off yet would be doing so prematurely. When he attacked with 4km to go he looked strong, and perhaps a simple strategic error from him and his team cost him a faster finish. He should still certainly be in contention in Florence later this month.
1. Robert Gesink (Belkin) 4:58:13
2. Arthur Vichot (FDJ) same time
3. Greg van Avermaet (BMC) +0:01
4. Fabian Wegmann (Garmin-Sharp) s/t
5. Rui Costa (Movistar) s/t
6. Niki Terpstra (OPQS) s/t
7. Tom-Jelte Slagter (Belkin) +0:02
8. Matti Breschel (Saxo-Tinkoff) +0:03
9. Simon Geschke (Argos-Shimano) +0:04
10. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) +0:06