Bigger & Badder. For the second year, only two WorldTour races in North America are back starting with the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec on Friday September 9, and the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal on Sunday September 11. A few changes were brought to the courses to make them more difficult and closer in length and difficulty to World Championships courses.
“Given last year’s experience and the fact that the riders have said they would like the distance to be closer to that of the great classic races, this year’s competitions in Quebec and Montreal will be over 200 km long. The pack will ride one more lap, and will have the daunting hills of Côte de la Montagne in Quebec City and Camilien Houde Road in Montreal to contend with. Both races promise to be really exciting, and whoever wins will be a worthy champion!” said Charly Mottet, the organization’s sports manager.
And Philippe Gilbert (Omega-Pharma Lotto) is paying attention, the Belgian skipped the Vuelta a Espana this year to race in Canada in order to get ready for the upcoming World Championship and in the hopes of re-gaining the lead in the UCI standings. Simply said, Gilbert is coming to win but he will have his work cut out. Though neither Quebec winner Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Cadel Evans (BMC) nor Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) are racing, other strong contenders with strong fitness gained at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado made the trip north. One strong favorite has to be Canadian Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Cervelo) who though strongest last year had to settle for third in Montréal.
It will be interesting to see who does better at the races between the riders coming from altitude at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge to the riders that raced in Europe during that period. Riders that showed good form in Colorado are Levi Leipheimer (Radioshack), Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervelo), Tejav van Garderen (HTC-Highroad), Timmy Duggan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and George Hincapie (BMC). Though he had a disappointing race in Colorado, Robert Gesink (Rabobank) is back in the hopes of defending his Montreal win. Others threats, especially for the Quebec race, include Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky), Fabian Wegmann (Leopard-Trek) and Sandy Casar (FDJ).
And of course, the Canadians racing on home soil will extra motivated to do well with the selection to the World Championships still in the balance. The 18 ProTeams will be fielding a squad at the races in addition to the four invited ProContinental teams – see roster.
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.
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.
Race starts at 11:00 am EST on Friday, September 9 with an estimate finish time between 4:00 and 4:30pm.
Montréal. After a rest which includes a 3-hour transfer south, the riders will face the tougher 12.1-km (7.5-mi) course in downtown Montréal. It is almost the same course as the Grand Prix des Amériques with the climb up côte des Neiges removed. This year, a total of 17 laps for 205.7 km (127.8-mi) will seriously challenge the field.
The 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 1.8-km 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, and last year’s move by eventual winner Gesink.
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 11:00 am EST on Sunday, September 11 with an estimate finish time between 4:00 and 4:30pm.