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After Costa was caught inside the final km, Van Avermaet launched a powerful uphill sprint to hold off Sagan in the GP Montreal; Ulissi completed the podium

Photo: Sirotti








11.09.2016 @ 23:11 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

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).


For several years, Greg Van Avermaet was known as the eternal runner-up but in the last few years his status has changed. The turnaround came when he powered to victory in a tough stage at the Tour de France in 2015 and since then he has been one of the most prolific winners of the peloton.


His classics season may have been destroyed by a crash at the Tour of Flanders but despite the missed chance in his preferred race, Van Avermaet can hardly believe what a 2016 season he has had. The winning trend from 2015 has continued in fantastic fashion.


It all started when he won the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in February and then he went on to win Tirreno-Adriatico and a stage in the Tour where he also wore the yellow jersey for a few days. However, the highlight was definitely his memorable victory in the road race in Rio.


The consistent Van Avermaet has definitely not rested on his laurels and he showed that he was still in form when he finished second in the GP Quebec on Friday. Today he took his first WorldTour one-day win of the year in the second race of the two Canadian classics, GP Montreal, with a powerful sprint that saw him again defeat Peter Sagan.


The seventh edition of the GP Montreal was held on the well-known 12.1km circuit that was covered 17 times for an overall distance of 205.7km. It had a hard 1.8km climb right from the start and then a shorter, less steep climb at the midpoint. It ended with a 500m uphill finishing straight that averaged 4%.


Sebastian Henao (Sky) was only non-starter when the peloton gathered on a beautiful, sunny day in Canada. With a tough climb right from the start, it was not surprising that the scene was set for attacks. The LottoNL-Jumbo duo of Moreno Hofland and Mike Teunissen tried immediately but they did not get clear. Instead, it was Fabien Grellier (Direct Energie), Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Argon 18), Ben Perry and Matteo Dal-Cin (Canada), who created a gap of 25 seconds after only 6km.


The peloton slowed down and let the four riders ride away but Sean De Bie (Lotto Soudal) refused to give up. The Belgian took off in pursuit and was soon joined by Jasha Sütterlin (Movistar). At the end of the first lap, the duo was 26 seconds behind the leaders while the peloton had lost 1.10 and had come to a complete standstill.


The two chasers made contact during the second passage of the climb while the peloton continued their slow pace. The lead grew very fast and there was no sign of initiative.


As they approached the end of the second lap, the gap was 5.15, and it was the signal for the peloton to increase the speed. Matthew Brammeier (Dimension Data) hit the front and slowly began to stabilize the situation. The distance was unchanged as they crossed the line to embark on the third lap.


Perry was again allowed to win the KOM sprint on the third lap, while Brammeier let the gap grow to 6.00. Unsurprisingly, the Irishman quickly got some help from Evgeny Petrov (Tinkoff) who had the task of preparing another victory for Sagan, and together the duo began to reduce the gap. Thus, it had dropped to 5.50 at the end of the third lap.


After four laps, Petrov and Brammeier had reduced the advantage to 5.25 and while Fredrik Ludvigsson and Julian Arredondo both abandoned and Perry secured two more victories in the KOM sprints, they continued to control the situation. Thus, the gap was still 5.15 after six laps.


On the seventh lap, Perry was again the first rider over the top on the climb before the group crossed the finish line with a lead of 5.30. The Canadian also secured the point on the 8th lap where the break increased the speed. At the next passage of the finish line, the gap had gone out to 5.45. Brameier and Petrov still did all the work.


Perry was again the first rider on top of the climb before they completed next lap with a lead of 5.20. Here there was a little help for Petrov and Brammeier as Astana asked Valerio Agnoli to take part in the work.


By the next passage of the line, Sky also started to chasewith Xabier Zandio, and now the gap came down faster. When Perry won the next KOM sprint, it was down to five minutes. Here it was also over for Brammeier and Petrov, and therefore it was up to Agnoli and Zandio to keep the peloton going. The duo brought it down to 4.25 during the 11th lap.


As they went up the climb for the 12th time, Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff) started to work with Zandio and Agnoli. At the start of the 13th lap, the trio had reduced the gap to 4.00. Meanwhile, Sütterlin was the first rider to get dropped from the break.


As they went up the main climb again, De Bie was the next rider to let the break go before Perry crested the summit in first position. In the peloton, Lampre-Merida upped the pace significantly and as Jan Polanc hit the front, the first riders were getting dropped and Sütterlin was brought back.


After the climb, Sky took control with Andrew Fenn leading four of his teammates and then Lampre-Merida again took over. However, they were quickly swamped when the fight for position intensified and it was Tom Van Asbroeck (LottoNL-Jumbo) who led his teammates across the line at the end of the 13th lap, 3.10 behind the leaders.


De Bie was caught just as they started the next lap where Moreno Hofland led the peloton onto the climb. More riders were getting dropped as the gradual elimination continued.


While Perry reached the top as the first rider, Geraint Thomas (Sky) upped the pace and he was joined by Yoann Offredo (FDJ), Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Christopher Juul (Orica-BikeExchange), Pim Ligthart (Lotto Soudal) and Van Asbroeck joined. Offredo maintained the pressure and then Jonathan Fumeaux (IAM) attacked. Manuel Senni (BMC) joined him and then set a brutal pace. Finally, Juul took over and when he reached the top a dangerous group of around 20 riders had been formed


Andre Cardoso, Pim Ligthart Nelson Oliveira, Ion Izagirrem Thomas, Mikel Nieve, Senni, Damiano Caruso, Laurens De Plus, Juul, Daryl Impey, Jasper Stuyven, Jakob Fuglsang, Tanel Kangert, Diego Rosa, Offredo, Alexey Vermeulen, Cyril Gautier, Sam Oomen, Georg Preidler, Manuele Mori, Diego Ulissi, Paul Voss and Fumeaux were some of the riders in the group and as Astana, Sky, Giant-Alpecin and Lampre-Merida were all motivated to keep the move alive, they quickly got a big advantage. At the start of the third last lap, they were 1.10 behind the four leaders and 35 seconds ahead of the peloton which was led by Lawson Craddock (Cannondale).


The Lampre riders set a fast pace in the chase group as they went up the climb and at the top they were less than one minute behind the leaders who had dropped Dal-Cin. While Perry won the KOM sprint, the peloton exploded, with Adam Yates and Roman Kreuziger among the riders to get distanced.


The peloton was getting close to the chasers as Direct Energie had taken control and they brought the group back as they started the final 30km. Fumeaux made an immediate attack but it was Izagirre who managed to get a gap. However, no one had gone clear as they crested the summit of the second climb.


Izagirre, Oomen, Gautier and Mori tried again and then Oliveira gave it a shot. Offredo was the next to try together with Gautier but it was Stuyven who was the first rider to get a gap.


As they hit the finishing straight, Pöstlberger dropped his companions who were passed by Stuyven and Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) took control in the peloton. The Austrian started the penultimate lap with a 10-second advantage over Stuyven and 15 seconds over the peloton.


As they hit the climb, Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) caught Stuyven and instead Gregory Rast (Trek) attacked. The Swiss quickly joined Pöstlberger but Majka quickly brought everything back together.


Gautier attacked as they approached the top while Peter Stetina (Trek) and Ignatas Konovalovas (FDJ) took off in pursuit. They joined Gautier just as they reached the summit where Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie), Rosa, Juul, Petr Vakoc (Etixx-QuickStep), Oomen and Huge Houle (Ag2r) also regained contact.


The nine leaders managed to get a 10-second advantage before BMC started to chase with Joey Rosskopf and Marcus Burghardt. However, the gap had gone out to 15 seconds when they hit the second climb.


Voeckler launched a solo attack on the ascent and was quickly joined by Gautier. Further back, the chase was getting more momentum and Tinkoff and Lampre-Merida were now assisting the BMC riders, with Rosskopf, Brent Bookwalter, Majka and Matteo Bono all working on the front.


The front nine found back together as they finished the descent with a 10-second advantage but the gap was coming down quickly. On the finishing straight, Rosa launched a strong attack and while the rest of the group was caught, he started the final lap with a 5-second advantage.


Sky took control and brought Rosa back on the lower slopes of the climb before Ben Gastuaer (Ag2r) launched a strong attack. As the peloton slowed down, he got a nice advantage but he started to lose ground when Majka hit the front again


Ryder Hesjedal (Trek) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r) launched a strong attack to sprint past the fading Gastauer. Bardet then countered, easily dropping Hesjedal and soloing towards the top.


In the peloton, Ulissi went full gas with Rui Costa on his wheel and easily brought Bardet back. He kept riding for a few more seconds before the former world champion made his move. Mollema tried to follow but he was unable to match the strong Portuguese. Further back, Sagan chased hard and he managed to bring Mollema back.


Costa crested the summit with an advantage of around 5 seconds over a group with Sagan, Van Avermaet, Moscon, Izagirre, Alaphilippe, Bardet, Uran, Mollema, and Ulissi. Mollema attacked again as they went over the top but Sagan quickly pulled him back.


There was no great cooperation and so Costa had increased the advantage to 10 seconds as he approached the second climb. Meanwhile, Orica-BikeExchange had organized a chase in the peloton and Michael Albasini brought the chasers back before they hit the ascent.


Van Avermaet launched a strong attack on the climb but failed to get any closer to Costa. However, he created a new chase group together with Sagan, Vakoc, Alaphilippe, Ulissi, Moscon, Izagirre and Alberto Bettiol.


After the descent, Sagan took a huge turn and as the group worked well together, Costa started to lose ground. With 2km to go, the gap was only 5 seconds. The peloton was 10 seconds further back, led by FDJ.


Sagan took a massive turn and as they took the U-turn with 600m to go, he had closed the gap to Costa. However, the peloton had also regained contact and so everything was back together. Vakoc was taken out of contention as he slid out in the turn.


As soon as Costa was brought back, Bettiol made a big attack and Sagan had to dig deep to shut it down. Ulissi then launched his sprint with Van Avermaet in second position and the Belgian easily came around. Sagan was on his wheel but could not even try to come around and had to settle for second. Ulissi took third while Michael Matthews (Orica-BikeExchange) came flying from the peloton to take fourth.


With the Canadian WorldTour races now over, the big events in North America are over. The next major event in the continent is next year’s Tour of California. The next WorldTour race is the Eneco Tour which kicks off on September 19.



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