Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) continued his memorable season by taking his first big WorldTour one-day race victory of 2016 at the Grand Prix de Montreal. After a dramatic finale that saw Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) be brought back with less than 500m to go, the Belgian launched a powerful sprint in the uphill finale and easily held off Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida in the sprint).
We have gathered several reactions.
Van Avermaet: To win a sprint like Sagan is really good for me
Greg Van Avermaet went one better at the GP Cycliste de Montreal by sprinting to the win after a hard-fought battle at the one-day classic, two days after his second place in Quebec.
Van Avermaet outmanoeuvred and outsprinted Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) after the race unfolded in a similar fashion to Quebec, with an early breakaway of six riders going clear on the first lap.
The peloton allowed the breakaway to maintain a gap of six minutes until the race reached the 40km to go mark and the chase heated up. A large group with Damiano Caruso and Manuel Senni formed, before the race came back together and Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) launched a solo attack.
Van Avermaet, in only his second race after being crowned Olympic champion, was part of a small chase group of a high calibre that eventually pulled Costa back just under the flame rouge, with the peloton closing in behind them.
Van Avermaet launched his sprint around 250m before the line and was strong enough to hold off the rest of the field to take his first win at the Canadian classics, and his fourth UCI WorldTour individual victory of the season.
“It was really hard. To win like that in a sprint against Peter Sagan is really good for me. I’m really happy with my season and my form as I’ve been able to win a lot of races. To finally win here in Quebec and Montreal is really nice after so many times on the podium. I’ll definitely be coming back to these races,”
”I was close in Quebec and Sagan was stronger than me there, and today the sprint went perfectly after a really hard last lap. I’ve come here several times and a few times I was on the podium but finally I made it to the first spot so it’s good for me. First and second, I cannot expect more from these two races.
“I always said that I could do more and finally this year it has happened. I was always a good rider but not winning that much and this year everything has come together and I have won some big races. I’m finally there where I want to be.
“In the group with Sagan and myself we had to work together, with Alaphilippe and Vakoc, and we went full gas to bring Costa back in the final kilometer. Everyone in that group was really strong but I was able to do my own sprint at the right moment and cross the line first.”
"I came here many times and I had not managed to win yet. I'm very happy I've done it. We worked very hard with Alaphilippe and Vakoc in the finale to try and catch Rui Costa and I'm glad we made it so that I had could have my chance to go for the win. It's been an incredible year. For many years I was the guy who didn't quite make it and now I've won all those great races. I hope I can continue like this and win races like Flanders or Paris-Roubaix. It's sure that Peter and I have responsibilities as the world champion and Olympic champion and I'm sure we will continue to do our best in the years to come."
Sports director Yvon Ledanois added:
“During the meeting this morning before the race we went through more or less the same plan that we had for the race in Quebec on Friday. I wanted to see a strong team around our leader Greg Van Avermaet with a good team spirit. I asked a lot from the riders and today what I saw was amazing with this victory. It’s not just a victory for Greg, it’s a victory for everybody, staff and riders. They proved today that when they give 300% for their leader anything is possible. I’m very happy with the team today.
“At 500m I was shouting to Greg ‘You can do it Greg!’ and to see a sprint like that was incredible. At 300m to go he was in front and he held on. The quality of riders here was very high and with riders like Peter Sagan you never know, but today Sagan or any other rider was not the best, Greg Van Avermaet was the best.”
Sagan: I was just tired
Having taken a huge win at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec on Friday, Peter Sagan and Tinkoff were always going to be closely watched at today’s Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal. However, the UCI world champion still managed to nearly pull off the double as he raced to second in the Canadian city.
Sagan won the race back in 2013, so he knows what it takes to be victorious on the arduous city course with its testing climbs on each lap of the circuit. An early breakaway went clear, containing six riders, that built a lead of over five minutes before the peloton started to take back control and close the gap, with Tinkoff adding power to the chase. In the peloton, it was also a game of attrition with more and more riders dropping off the pace as the race, and the climbs, ticked by.
The circuit contained two main hills, as well as an uphill drag to the line, and it was this repetition of difficulties over the 17 laps that really took its toll. With around 50km to race, a dangerous counter attack of 25 riders formed which Tinkoff missed, leaving them to chase behind together with a few other teams. This counter attack, and the resulting chase from the peloton, saw the beginning of the end for the break as their advantage tumbled, with the catch finally coming within the final 25km.
From here the attacks again came, with small groups trying to break clear and, much like Friday in Québec, a strong late solo move nearly held enough of an advantage to take victory, but a strong push from a select front group saw the catch made in the final kilometre. Peter Sagan went head-to-head with Greg van Avermaet, second in Québec, and today it was the rider from BMC who came out fastest.
After the race, Sport Director, Patxi Vila told:
"Peter did Greg on Friday, but today Greg did Peter so it's 1-1. It was close, finishing second, but when you look at the whole race it was already a tough day. Peter already did well to still be there after a hard, attacking race with nearly 4000m of climbing, so that’s good to see. We’re in mid-September so you can never be sure of what’s in the the legs.
“The guys were committed and when we missed out on the split they were there to help close the gap and bring it back. All together, it has been a really, really good weekend and with a win and a second place we can be happy.”
Peter Sagan added:
"I'm happy. First in Quebec and second in Montreal is not bad. What happened? I was just tired. I had cramps in the final sprint and I could not sprint better so I'm content with my second place. I cannot think about the world championships yet. It's too far away.”
Ulissi on Montreal podium on day of domestique duties
LAMPRE-MERIDA will return from Canada with two results in the top ten at the GP Quebec and the GP Montreal and two impressive performances by Rui Costa, who would have deserved good results too.
In the second Canadian World Tour event, Ulissi obtained the third place:
"In the first part of the race, we saved energies that we exploited in the second half in order to raise the pace and make the race more demanding,” he said.
”Rui and I were aware to be competitive in the final lap so I prepared the attack of Rui: it's a pity that the chasing group, in which I was riding too, bridged the gap at few hundred meters from the finish. However, I was ready for the sprint even if it was not easy against very fast riders such as Sagan, Matthews and Van Avermaet.
"I was working hard for Rui Costa all day and it worked pretty well as he broke away in the last five kilometers. But when I saw he was caught, I tried my chance and it turned out the way you saw."
Rui Costa after near-miss: The victoy never comes
There were bittersweat impressions from Rui Costa.
"My form is ok, I'm trying hard to achieve the best possible result, however the victory never comes,” he said.
”Today the team's performance was amazing and it helped me to make a good attack, unfortunately my aims for a victory vanished at a few meters from the finish
“Congratulations to Diego, he was great in battling in the sprint agains such fast riders. I'll keep on trying to achieve the victory in the next appointments.”
Late crash disrupts Matthews in Montreal sprint
After finishing fifth in Quebec on Friday Australian Michael Matthews rounded off a weekend of Canadian racing for ORICA-BikeExchange by taking fourth from the reduced bunch sprint in the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal today.
The long 205kilometre race saw an early breakaway of six riders stay away for the majority of the day before finally being caught with around 20kilometres to go after strong work by ORICA-BikeExchange on the front.
The finale was fast and hectic with a reduced bunch shaping up to contest the sprint after a crash on the final corner split the field.
2016 Paris-Nice stage winner Matthews was clipped slightly in the crash and fought back solidly to take fourth behind race winner Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) with Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) in second.
Sport director Laurenzo Lapage was pleassed with the efforts of the team over the two races.
"It was a really strong team effort today," said Lapage. "We brought the race back together time and again before the finale and we knew that if the group comes back together too soon in a race like this it can be dangerous so we had to be aware.
"The finish was fast and pretty hectic, we set Michael (Matthews) up perfectly before the crash occurred and that disrupted Michael slightly. He ended up coming from quite a long way back when he started his sprint and did well to finish in the top five again.
"Van Avermaet and Sagan are the two strongest guys in the world at the moment and we competed hard against them, both here in Montreal and in Quebec on Friday. It's been a solid weekend of racing for us and we can be pleased with our performances."
Bad legs not enough to stop in-form Haas from claiming top 5 in Montreal
Nathan Haas finished off Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka’s Canadian campaign sprinting to 5th place at the GP Montreal. The 200km long race was won by Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) who crossed the line ahead of Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida).
Eventually it all came back together. Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) attacked the last time up Mont-Royal inside the final lap of the Montreal city circuit. He would come close to the win but was reeled in inside the final kilometer by a chase that included Van Avermaet and Sagan. The peloton was a few seconds down going into the final kilometer, but they would close the gap. Michael Matthews (Orica-BikeExchange) and Haas were the only ones to get up to the front. Haas opened his sprint with 500m to go to finish 5th after a tough day in the saddle.
Nathan Haas said:
”During the race I actually didn’t feel that well, so I was pretty surprised to get over the climb the last time around. In the end I just had to engage in the finish. Unfortunately, there was a crash in the last corner when Michael Matthews and I where trying to start our sprints, so we had to break and then go again. I went all in and came close in the end. Big thanks to the team for backing me in Quebec and Montreal. It’s always nice for us to be able to show the Qhubeka spirit on another continent. North America is really supportive of the movement Qhubeka is doing by putting people in Africa on bikes and we’re already looking forward to come back here in a year’s time.”
Moscon continues dream pro debut with top 6 in Montreal
Gianni Moscon rounded out a promising trip to Canada with a fine sixth place at the Grand Prix de Montreal.
Just as he did on Friday in Quebec, the young Italian once again found himself at the sharp end of a WorldTour race. An elite selection formed on the final lap on the Cote Camilien-Houde, with Moscon working hard in the group before sprinting to a strong finish on the uphill drag.
In a thrilling finish the race all but came back together heading into the final hairpin, but the group out front had the legs, with Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) reversing Friday's result to fend off Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) at the line.
Team Sky were once again active, working on the front to help close down the day's break before Geraint Thomas lit it up heading into the final 40km. Forcing the issue on the all-important Camilien-Houde, a significant and 26-man selection formed including Mikel Nieve and the Welshman.
That forced other teams to chase, but with the pace high it all came back together on the penultimate of the race's 17 laps. That set the scene for another superb performance from Moscon.
Roux improves his status in FDJ with two excellent results in Canada
Two days after the Grand Price of Quebec where he finished third, Anthony Roux has taken a new Top 10 in the GP Montreal won by Van Avermaet (BMC). With less good feelings than in the first Canadian race, he took advantage of the excellent work of his teammates.
"It was a race that took time to settle,” said sports director Yvon Madiot, “but the last lap was dramatic. A group of about ten riders managed to make a little difference and among them were a lot of favorites such as Van Avermaet, Sagan (Tinkoff), Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step) and Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida). They were caught in the last kilometer. Ignatas Konovalovas and Yoann Offredo did a lot of work and the junction took place before the finishing straight. "
In a hairpin turn, Vakoc (Etixx-Quick Step) crashed and slightly disrupted Roux but at the finish he acknowledged that he could not do much better than ninth.
"Anthony did not have as good legs as he on Friday and told us that he was in his place but overall I am very satisfied with the job of his teammates and with this result. Anthony has scored a lot of points in the World Tour and we will consider this in the future.”
Heartbroken Vakoc crashes after great race in Montreal
Etixx – Quick-Step rode the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal (205.7 kilometers) on the same key as the previous one-day race of the week, in Quebec, where Petr Vakoč was the team's top finisher. Here, both he and Julian Alaphilippe were up to the challenge once a series of attacks ignited the race with two laps to go of the total of 16 the peloton had to cover on Sunday. Vakoč was part of a strong group of riders that extricated themselves from the bunch with around 22 kilometers left, going on to build a 15-second gap.
The move was a dangerous one, so it got chased down by the pack, but even though it was nullified before the final lap, attacks kept on coming and another group, this time with Julian Alaphilippe and Petr Vakoč, took off. Soon, Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) accelerated and opened a substantial lead over his opponents, but the group caught him in the final kilometer, as a result of strong collaboration between the Etixx – Quick-Step duo, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff).
On the final corner of the race, just as the riders were fighting for the best position to tackle Avenue du Parc (560 meters, 4%), Vakoč crashed and saw his hopes for a good result go up in smoke. Alaphilippe took over sprinting duties and despite not having too much left in the tank after doing some long pulls at the front, he still managed to finish 10th, as the race was won by Van Avermaet ahead of Sagan and Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida).
"Today I was feeling pretty good and the entire team did a great job. With two laps to go I jumped into the break and tried to save energy for the closing kilometers. Then, inside the last 6 kilometers, I reacted to Van Avermaet's attack. We pulled hard behind Costa and reeled him in in the final kilometer, but unfortunately my wheel slipped and I found myself on the ground", a heartbroken Vakoč said after crossing the line. "It's not an easy moment, but I'll try to shrug off the disappointment and draw the positives from today's race: I had a good condition and was up there with the world's best riders. That's encouraging for the next races."
Sport director Davide Bramati made an analysis of Etixx – Quick-Step's Canadian week-end: "On Friday, we tried to shake up things by attacking in the final 30 kilometers. Today, we went once again to the attack and displayed a fantastic team spirit, but luck – which is important in cycling – wasn't on our side. I'm sure that without that crash, Petr would have been in the top 5. But we must leave this behind and return to Europe with confidence and optimism that we can have strong a finish to the season."
Mollema: Maybe we should have worked for Stuyven instead
Jasper Stuyven finished in 12th place for the reduced bunch sprint in Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal Sunday after a thrilling finale saw Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) pulled back in the final meters.
Trek-Segafredo helped push the pace in the final ascents of the Mt. Royal climb to try and make the race difficult, and to the liking of Bauke Mollema. On the last time up the 1.6-kilometer uphill that the peloton tackled 17 times, Ryder Hesjedal accelerated hard, putting the first major sting into the final selection.
"We wanted to make the race hard for Bauke," explained Hesjedal. "I made the selection, it was perfect, and you never know what happens, you have to take the chance. Unfortunately, the group came back together for a bunch sprint with a lot of fast guys. We tried; I mean I was happy to get out front and push a bit and then stay up there for the finale. Today was amazing. I actually felt the best I have felt since May. When it's like that you have a good time and are just lovin' it.
"I'm the one who launched the big battle on Camillien-Houde today. Unfortunately, it didn't work but when you see the riders here on the podium, there was not much we could do. I really wanted to finish well in this race I like and with my Trek-Segafredo team-mates, we tried to toughen the race in the last lap. I won't say I was expecting more. I'm the best Canadian today and it's not so bad."
When Costa countered Hesjedal's attack, Mollema was close to grabbing his wheel, but could not quite close the gap. Over the top, a small chase group formed with Mollema, and it was a heated game of pursuit over the ensuing kilometers to the finish.
"The last 3-4 laps were really hard on the long climb, and we also tried to make it harder with Greggy (Rast), Jasper (Stuyven), and Pete (Stetina)," added Mollema. "It was a perfect situation for me; I needed a hard race. The last climb was also hard, at the bottom and again at the top when Ryder attacked. Then when Costa went, I was the second rider, but I just couldn’t quite make it to him.
"We were with 7-8 guys behind him, but we didn't work together. It was all the big favorites, and that's why no one wanted to pull, and the peloton came back. I knew we would get Costa back as the last kilometers were flat and he was never far in front of us."
Costa did eventually come back, but not until after the final 180-degree turn with 500 meters to go. The pursuit game ended in dramatic fashion, and a regrouping of 31 riders occurred in the frantic final meters as Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) sprinted to the win ahead of Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida).
Trek-Segafredo finished with three riders in the leading peloton: Stuyven (12th), Hesjedal (19th) and Mollema (24th), a good showing after an assertive performance by the team.
"I am disappointed I could not get a better result today," continued Mollema. "It was a nice race today, I like this race, and I felt good the whole day. On the last climb, I was with the best of the peloton today, but we didn't really work together, and the rest of the peloton came back. In the sprint, Jasper was the best of us. The guys tried to make the race hard for me, but maybe, in the end, it was better we'd held Jasper for the sprint. But you never know. I guess we know for next year that Jasper can make a good result here since he was with the first of the peloton."
Aggressive Rosa on the attack in Montreal
”The strategy for today which we made in the morning meeting was for me to pay attention to the attacks in the last three laps,” commented Diego Rosa after the finish. “I did so, I joined a couple of very important attacks but the collaboration was not 100% between the escapers.
“I’ve tried to gain the biggest gap possible and, just before the start of the last lap I attacked in a solo action to try every possibility. Then, the teams of the faster riders did a great action and there was space for no one. In fact, at least, the victory has been decided in a sprint from the select group of riders that everyone was considering as the favourites.
“Obviously we would have been happier to win or be on the podium but I think that we all did a great job in terms of preparation for the next races.”
Spilak not good enough in Montreal
Two Team KATUSHA riders were near the front for the final action but didn’t quite have the luck they needed to make an impact on the second of two one-day races contested on Canadian soil since Friday. Simon Špilak and Viacheslav Kuznetsov both had good position coming into the last two laps, especially as things broke apart near the end and 2011 winner Rui Costa attacked the peloton. But with no one particularly interested in working with Sagan for the chase, things finally came back together again before the final sprint won by Van Avermaet on a time of 5:27:04 (37.735 km/h).
“Špilak is not in his top, top condition right now but sometimes he can still pull off something, just not this time. And for Slava, he was alone in a big group without other helpers so that made it hard for him to move up into the best position; he’s not so strong to do that alone right now. Overall these races were OK for us here in Canada. In Québec on Friday I was especially pleased to see Slava take a tenth place so we can say we saw some success here,” said team director Dmitry Konyshev.
Kelderman left disappointed on bad day in Montreal
Greg Van Avermaet won his first race as Olympic champion in the Grand Prix Montreal overnight by beating Peter Sagan in a sprint. Sadly, the LottoNL-Jumbo riders did not play a role in the thrilling finale.
The race was a classic. Four riders flew free early on, but the group tightly controlled it and kept their margin small. Alexey Vermeulen showed himself in the chasing group 30 kilometres from the finish, but team leader Wilco Kelderman missed his opportunity in Montreal.
"I do not have much to say because my legs were not good," Kelderman explained. “I didn’t have any power and could not follow the best riders. In the end, I also had cramps, so the curtain finally fell because I could not sprint."
Sports Director Nico Verhoeven was not satisfied. Five riders of his team abandoned the race early and the team leader could only manage 50th. They will have to forget this race and look ahead to others.
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