You know the ‘season of mist and mellow fruitfulness’ is well and truly upon us when a large contingent of WorldTour riders pack their suitcases and fly north for a weekend of racing in Canada. This duo of races starts out with a tough race around Québec City on Friday, before the riders take a 250km journey south-west for Sunday’s challenging route around Montréal.
- The race takes place over 11 laps of an 18.1km circuit around the beautiful city of Quebec.
- Each lap has three small climbs and a long uphill drag to the finish line on Grande-Allee Ouest.
- The Cote de la Montagne is the steepest climb, around 14km into the circuit. It’s short with an average gradient of 10%.
- From there the riders have a short descent before tackling the Cote de la Potasse (9% gradient) and then the Montee de la Fabrique (7% gradient).
- The finishing section is twisty and technical with several corners. Two sharp turns will see the riders onto the 900m long finishing straight which is all uphill at an average of 4%.
- The organisers have changed the Quebec parcours this year. It used to be 16 laps of a 12.6km circuit. All of the climbs are still present so the extra race distance comes from the addition of a longer flat section in the middle of each lap. On the face of it this should make the race significantly easier, but we shall have to wait and see.
- The two GP Cycliste races are the only North American races on the WorldTour calendar.
- They are also one of the younger WorldTour races, this year being the only the fifth edition.
- It’s rare for WorldTour events to be designed as circuit races – the only other one is the GP Ouest France-Plouay.
- There will be 19 teams on the start line: all 18 WorldTour teams plus one Canadian national team.
- The race’s previous winners are: Robert Gesink (Belkin), Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE), Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), and Thomas Voeckler (Bbox Bouygues Telecom).
- Apart from the Canadian national team, there will be three home riders for the crowd to cheer: Antoine Duchesne (Europcar), Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEDGE), and Hugo Houle (Ag2r La Mondiale).
- As well as watching the drama unfold, look out for the beautiful cityscapes Quebec has to offer. The route takes us past the some wonderful St Lawrence riverside scenery and through the narrow, twisting medieval streets of Old Quebec.
Who to watch
It’s rare for a WorldTour race to be designed entirely as a circuit race, but this makes for ideal preparation for the World Championships, which is also run in circuit format, in two weeks’ time. If they are not at the Vuelta, you can bet your bottom dollar the major Worlds riders will be here.
The tough parcours has 2,310m of climbing over the whole route and traditionally suits those riders who do well at the Ardennes classics. It is always ridden aggressively and is hard to control. Selections happen almost constantly, particularly on the climbs of the final lap. Teams will contain both riders who will try to win from a breakaway, as well as those who prefer the uphill sprint.
A rider to watch for, particularly if he makes a breakaway, is Greg van Avermaet (BMC). He has looked strong since his stage win at the Eneco Tour, and is supported by a strong team which includes Tejay van Garderen.
Lotto-Belisol come with a host of potential candidates including Tim Wellens (winner of the Eneco Tour), and Tony Gallopin. The Frenchman, who as well as winning a stage at the Tour this year, also placed fifth in the hilly stage two from York to Sheffield. Since these exploits he has been fifth at San Sebastian and has shown good form at both the Brussels Cycling Classic and GP Fourmies.
There are other riders from the Tour de France on the start line, including Bauke Mollema (Belkin) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana). It is hard to say what their form will be, but they have shown they can perform well in the Ardennes.
Katusha bring Alexander Kristoff, and on paper you would say he has a strong chance on an uphill sprint. However, he found the repeated circuits and fatiguing climbing at GP Plouay very tough, and did not have the power for the sprint finish.
World champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Arthur Vichot (FDJ), Matti Breschel (Tinkoff-Saxo) and the Garmin-Sharp duo of Tom-Jelte Slagter and Fabian Wegmann all placed in the top ten last year. It will be interesting to see if the new course makes a difference this time around.
Of the four previous winners, only Simon Gerrans is present this year. He had a superb spring campaign, crashed out of the Tour de France, but has come back in these autumn races, winning the Vattenfall Cyclassics and performing well at GP Plouay. He’s also supported by a strong team including Simon Yates.
You all know the drill by now don’t you? “Never underestimate Simon Gerrans.” I have to say he would be my favourite to take the win again.
Live action and highlights will be shown by Eurosport in the UK. For other coverage check cyclingfans.com.
Link: Official website