History. Many top riders have climbed and suffered on the Mont Royal in Montréal. In the 1974 World Championships where the great Eddy Merckx won his third rainbow jersey. The Olympic Road Race in 1976. For five years, from 88 to 92 at the Grand Prix des Amériques, a stop in the World Cup circuit with winners that include Steve Bauer and Franco Ballerini. The Tour Trans-Canada. And the Montreal World Cup for women held for 12 years but canceled this year.
More, many for first time, will be suffering this weekend at the first two ProTour races to be held in North America, the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec on Friday September 10, and the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal on Sunday September 12. Two tough one-day races that will tackle renowned climbs and some tricky descents.
All 18 ProTour teams, together with four wildcard invitations to BBox Bouygues Télécom, Cofiids, the Canadian National Team and the BMC Racing Team, will take part. But these races are time for the hilly Classics specialists to shine, riders that include Sammy Sanchez (Euskatel-Euskadi), Robert Gesink (Rabobank), Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo), Sylvain Chavanel (Quick-Step), Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank), Damiano Cunego (Lanpre-Farese), Thomas Voeckler (Bbox Bouygues), Alessandro Ballan (BMC), and Canadian Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions). Also waiting to shine is the Canadian National Team waiting to test themselves against ProTour riders, the first time for most. On the line, the prestigious win, for some a selection to the World Championships and for others maybe that needed contract. (See roster for Québec and Montréal)
Let’s take a closer look at the courses. (See cheat sheet).
Québec. The 12.6 km course was ranked as “demanding” by the UCI from a technical point of view, and as “exceptional” for the beauty of its setting.
The loop starts on la Grande-Allée Ouest near Place Georges V and the Armoury. Two left turns, one tight, takes the riders into the Plaines d’Abraham National Park. A slight descent followed by hairpin right turn to avenue Ontario for 2.5 km all in the Park until the next left-hander brings us back on Grande-Allée Ouest. But not for long, another left-hander onto rue de Laune starts the descent to the St-Laurent river followed by another hairpin right turn to côte Gilmour. Riders crashed on this descent in the penultimate stage of the Tour de Beauce this year when the route was tested out.
At the bottom of côte Gilmour, after a left-hander riders will try to move up on the wide and fast Boulevard Champlain for the next 4 km before the fateful climbs. Then three fast turns to the bottom of the côte de la Montagne, where with a bit more than 3 kilometers to go, it gets much harder. Riders tackle the first climb, the 375-m côte de la Montagne with an average grade of 10%, then take two quick right turns to a fast descent on rue des Remparts and the much narrower côte de la Canoterie. Positioning will be key here for the upcoming climb. Left turn onto the next steep little popper, the 420 m côte de la Potasse with a 9% average grade. At the top, a half-kilometer descent, starting with four turns and pavés thrown in for good measure and ending with a almost 180-turn in front of the Chateau to get to the bottom of the final push. The 190-m côte de la Fabrique with its 7% grade starts the uphill final km to the line
“It will certainly start hard and expect some pretty powerful attacks through the last 3km, on all those steep hills. They are quite steep, the two back to back hills, and then the last one, the last kilometer to the finish is a long drag, it’s longer than you think.” said Canadian Champ Will Routley (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) about the course. Routley will be riding with the Canadian National Team.
And then they do it again, and again. Starting at 11:45am ET on Friday September 10, the race is 15 laps for a total of 189km. Oh and there’s good chance of rain too.
Montréal. Though not as technical, the Montréal course is aa killer. It is almost the same course as the Grand Prix des Amériques with the climb up côte des Neiges removed.
The 12.1-km course starts on avenue du Parc, North of the Georges-Étienne Cartier Monument. A quick left hand turn brings the rider to the bottom of the first difficulty, the 1.8km slog up Mont-Royal on chemin Camilien-Houde with its 8% average grade. Watch for attacks on the climb, especially the steep portions at the base. This climb has seen a lot of attacks including the ones from Thevenet and Merckx in 1974.
2.1-km into the loop, the fast, wide descent down chemin Remembrance to a right turn on chemin de la côte des Neiges. It was on this descent in 2002 that Dede Demet Barry attacked the field on the final lap, after being dropped on the climb, to win the Montreal World Cup. Two quick right turns to the next big difficulty, the 780-m côte de la Polytechnique with a 6% average grade, including a 300-meter portion at 11%. Steeper in parts than Mont-Royal with a false flat, this climb is perfect for an attack. Which Bauer knows well, he attacked here to win the Grand Prix des Amériques in 1988.
Half-way through the lap, the riders descend with two turns down to rue Edouard-Montpetit, the one flat kilometer on the course. Time for a breather. Two more turns to chemin de la côte Ste-Catherine, almost two kilometers and back on avenue du Parc and the fight for position before doing it all over again.
The race starts at 12:15pm ET on Sunday September 12 and is 16 laps for a total of 193.6 km.
On the final lap of the 21-lap World Championship, (yes they climbed Mont Royal 21 times!) Merckx and a few others caught Bernard Thevenet who had been off the front. After an attack on Mont Royal, the Frenchman had been suffering for nearly 100 km. The final time up that fateful climb, the Frenchman was caught and passed, a broken man. Thevenet’s teammate Raymond Poulidor counter-attacked only to have Merckx chase him down on the descent making it a two-man race. Merckx won the sprint and Poulidor finished second, again. 21 laps of pain where only 18 riders finished, all in front of an enthusiastic crowd.
TV. Canadian fans can follow the two races live on Canal Évasion in French, or watch the last 2 hours on Radio Canada, also in French. For English-speaking fans, SportsNet ONE will show, live, the last three hours of each race. American fans will have to wait until September 18 & 19th to watch on Versus TV. Eurosport is showing the races in other countries. Radio-Canada will also be showing the races live on-line. (See details)
Challenge Sprint. In anticipation of the 2010 Grands Prix Cyclistes à Québec et à Montréal, a new event will be held on Thursday, September 9, 2010: The Challenge Sprint. It consists in a series of sprints between four cyclists, with a single elimination process in order to determine the best road sprinter. Sprints will take place over the distance of one kilometer, as if it was a finish sprint at the end of a road race. A total of 5,000$ in prize money is up for grabs for riders. (see details)