Grands Prix Cyclistes de Québec & Montréal preview

Cycling fans know the season is drawing to a close when the WorldTour packs its bags for a weekend in Canada, though the Laurentian Classics’ challenging parcours ensure that the riders aren’t able to start winding down for the off-season yet. The Canadian double-header opens with a race around Québec City on Friday, before the riders take a 250km drive south-west for Sunday’s dash around Montréal. Continue reading

Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal review

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

Gautier was a key figure in the early breakaway (image courtesy of Europcar)

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.

Dangerous escapees

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

Nordhaug – a surprising but deserving winner (image courtesy of Sky)

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.

Closing thoughts

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.

Race result

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

Link: Preview

Grands Prix Cyclistes de Québec & Montréal preview

It is a big weekend in the UCI WorldTour, with a couple of excellent races taking place in Canada. The only WorldTour events in North America are two of the season’s highlights, even if they do symbolise that the nights are drawing in as quickly as the cycling season, and that autumn is just days away. The first of the two races takes place tomorrow (Friday) in Québec, before the riders hit Montréal on Sunday for the second of the ‘Laurentian Classics’.

Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec – Friday 7th September

The opening race takes place in Québec over an exciting course, described as technically ‘demanding’ and ‘exceptional’ in its beauty by the UCI. It is a race perfectly suited to the puncheurs, and one which has produced gripping racing since the inauguration of the Grands Prix Cyclistes series in 2010.

Both of the Grands Prix take in laps of a course around each city, and the Québec race features 16 laps of 12.6km. Towards the end of the circuit are four short, sharp climbs from which the eventual winner will emerge. The beautiful backdrop to the finish is provided by the historic neighbourhood of Old Québec, with the race’s scenery just as stunning as any Grand Tour road stage.

The Côte de la Montagne is only 375m long but the ramp is 10%, before a 420m, 9% climb and a 190m, 7% one in the space of 2km towards the back end of the circuit. The final ramp up to the finish will be stinging the legs of any brave escapee, with a comparatively long 1km drag at 4%.

In last year’s race the newly crowned king of Belgium Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) bounced off the back of his Ardennes Triple to take the Québec title in typically dominating fashion. The national champion recorded his 17th win of the season after attacking twice out of a select group of escapees, with only Robert Gesink (Rabobank) coming close to even matching Gilbert. Rigoberto Uran (Sky) finished third, eight seconds behind the Dutchman, and nine behind the winner.

Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal – Sunday 9th September

A slightly more friendly parcours welcomes the riders in Montréal, with only one real tough climb of note. The Côte Camilien-Houde comes early into the circuit, but don’t think it’s easy! It is almost 2km at an average gradient of 8%, and is longer than any ramp on the Québec profile.

The other climbs are the Côte de la Polytechnique (780m long and 6% average gradient) and Avenue du Parc (560m long and 4% average gradient), with the latter being the final ascent up to the finish on one of the city’s major north-south streets.

Sunday’s race is marginally longer than Friday’s, as the riders make 17 laps of the 12.1km course, bringing the total race distance up to 205.7km.

Last year it was Rui Costa of Movistar who emerged as a surprise victor, sprinting out of a late escape formed with Stefan Denifl (Leopard-Trek) and Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ) to take the win. It was a thrilling finish as the gutsy three-man breakaway were charged down by the marauding peloton on the finishing straight, with the Portuguese winner denying Philippe Gilbert the opportunity to become the first man to complete the Laurentian double by just two seconds.

Who to watch

With the races being so geographically close together most teams are using the same squads for both races. So with the races both featuring puncheur-friendly parcours which form an ideal warm-up for the forthcoming World Championships, here are the names to keep an eye on throughout the weekend.

Any discussion of the favourites on courses such as these must start with Liquigas’ Peter Sagan, who should be well rested after his Tour de France green jersey-winning exploits. Luis Leon Sanchez will also look to continue his excellent season in a pair of races which should suit him well. Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) is equally as aggressive on such terrain, and Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen also excels on such hilly finishes – albeit preferring a small sprint finish to a lone attack.

Other contenders to consider include Greg Van Avermaet, who heads a strong BMC team. Giro d’Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) will be looking for a victory on home soil. Winner of the inaugural 2010 Québec race Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) will almost certainly make a bid for freedom at the finish, while his compatriot Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ), who came so close to winning the Montréal race last year, will be a contender once again.

Finally, for those who fancy more of an outside bet, look out for Rui Costa (Movistar), Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Sharp), Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE), Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol), Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) and Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM).

The Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec takes place on Friday 7th September, withthe Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal following on Sunday 9th. Live coverage of both races will be broadcast on Eurosport. For other coverage check

Links: GP Cycliste de Quebec official websiteGP Cycliste de Montreal official website