Simon Gerrans laid down a marker for the 2014 World Championships with a brilliant win at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebéc. He came back from a late mechanical and timed his sprint to perfection on the tough uphill finish.
Ascents, attacks, breakaways and the catch
The race took place over 11 laps of an 18.1km circuit back-loaded with three short, tough climbs and a long uphill drag to the finish line. As expected, the racing was aggressive, with all the attacks coming on the Cote de la Montagne and the Cote de la Potasse.
An early four-man breakaway built up an advantage of over 11 minutes before being brought back under control on the Cote de la Montagne with three laps to go. Orica-GreenEDGE, BMC, Garmin-Sharp and FDJ kept the pace high enough throughout the ninth lap that the numerous attacks were soon neutralised.
However, as they hit the climbs at the end of the lap Sebastien Minard (Ag2r La Mondiale) put in a strong attack and was soon joined by ten other riders including Nicki Sorensen (Tinkoff-Saxo), Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp), and Michael Woods (Canada). With 30km to go they had gained a 30-second advantage and were working well together.
Having missed the move, it was left to riders from FDJ, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Lotto-Belisol, Sky and eventually Katusha to do all the work on the front of the peloton. As the race approached the end of the penultimate lap, OPQS duo Jan Bakelants and Matteo Trentin along with Tim Wellens (Lotto-Belisol) and Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) bridged the gap to the breakaway. But with the group swollen to 15 riders, their rhythm was interrupted and they were caught on the final ascent of Cote de la Montagne.
From then on the action was fast and frantic with almost constant attacks. Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol) put in a powerful surge with 1km to go, taking Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Gianni Meersman (OPQS) with him. The slim advantage they held as they hurtled up Grande-Alle Ouest for the last time was soon negated by a marauding peloton.
The finish was marred by a crash in the closing metres as Arthur Vichot (FDJ) crashed and sustained a broken collarbone. With less than 250 metres to go Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) launched a blistering sprint and looked to have it in the bag. But Gerrans timed his own run to perfection, passing him just five metres from the finish line. Navardauskas held on to round out the podium.
“Never underestimate Simon Gerrans”
This is the second GP Quebec title for Gerrans and comes on the back of a difficult season. Having been on top form in the spring, he crashed at the Tour de France and has taken time to come back. However, his performances at these late season one-day races have shown him to be peaking at just the right time. Rather ominously for his rivals he said,
I still have two major goals before the end of the season: Montreal on Sunday and the World Championships in two weeks.
I’m not betting against the rainbow stripes showing up on the Orica-GreenEDGE kit in 2015.
Orica-GreenEDGE deliver with perfection
Gerrans may have been the rider who powered over the finish line in first place, but it was a phenomenal team effort that kept him in contention and brought him to the last climb. They didn’t miss a single significant move, and even managed to deal with an untimely mechanical for their team leader with 23km to go.
The huge advantage held by early breakaway was brought back almost single-handedly by Christian Meier, with some help from Peter Stetina of BMC. He sat on the front of the peloton for kilometre after kilometre tapping out a fast pace that many riders struggled to maintain let alone have the speed to attack from.
Jens Keukeleire covered the dangerous 11-man breakaway on the penultimate lap, and then held the tempo high when they were eventually reeled in. When Vanendert launched his strong attack, it was countered by strong riding from Michael Albasini and Pieter Weening.
Finally, as the attacks flew on the Grande-Alle Ouest, it was Daryl Impey who guided Gerrans into the perfect position to launch his sprint for the line. As the winner said in his post race interview: “This is a win for the collective.”
The parcours was changed for this edition of the race. Instead of the traditional 16 laps of a 12.6km circuit, we had 11 laps of 18.1km. With no new climbs added to the new route, this did significantly alter the feel of the race; there are fewer climbs with more distance for recovery between ascending efforts.
Did this alter the outcome? Well, there were certainly more riders at the finish, even if most of the expected contenders were there. Did it add any greater excitement to the race as a whole? I’d have to say no.
So why the change? Changes to established routes are quite common and often contentious. In this case a potential reason for the change could be to make the circuit more similar in distance to that of a typical World Championship course.
Race in numbers
6 – The number of times Tom Dumoulin has taken second place at WorldTour races this year.
100 – Gerrans delivered Orica-GreenEDGE’s 100th win. Fittingly he also provided their very first win in 2012.
2,310 – The total distance in metres climbed by the peloton during the race.
1. Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) 4:42:54
2. Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) same time
3. Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) s/t
4. Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE) s/t
5. Greg van Avermaet (BMC) s/t
6. Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) s/t
7. Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) s/t
8. Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) s/t
9. Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) s/t
10. Bauke Mollema (Belkin) s/t
Header Image: Simon Gerrans remporte la course (Crédit James Startt)