Earlier today we asked Can anyone beat Gilbert? Well the answer was yes but not by much. But today, Rui Faria da Costa (Movistar) was able to hold off a charging field that included Gilbert to take the win at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal. The young Portuguese rider broke away from the field on the final lap along with Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ) and Stefan Denifl (Leopard-Trek).
Working well together, the trio managed to build up a gap of 15 seconds with one kilometer to go but the field was chasing hard. Fedrigo opened up the sprint first but da Costa was able to come around for the win. Pedrigo held on for second. After crashing on the fourth lap, Gilbert surged from the field to take third.
The race started off fast the first time up Camilien-Houde. Attacks were flying but nothing was sticking as riders were shelled off the back. Faces were showing the pain of racing on the tough 12.1-km (7.5-mi) circuit . Finally on the fourth of 17 laps, Danny Pate (HTC-Highroad) managed to get a gap. He was joined by Danilo di Luca (Katusha), Anthony Geslin (FDJ) and Yukiya Arashiro (Europcar). After the fast opening laps, the field was happy to take a breather and let the four riders up the road. However, the gap was controlled, never passing the five minute mark.
With five laps to go, Rabobank decided to take over, just like they did in Quebec City and the gap quickly came down to one minute. More attacks and counter-attacks and two laps later, the field was all back together with Pate the last rider reeled in. But the attacks were not done. With 15 km to go, a group of about 10 riders, which included Costa, Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM), Jean-Christophe Péraud (AG2R), Mike Barry (Sky), Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervelo) escaped the field only to be caught. But Costa was not done, and this time his attack with only 6 km to go was the good one.
Crossing the line in 11th place, Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Cervelo) was the Top Canadian. Pate won the KOM classification, and Arashiro was awarded the Most Aggressive rider.
Rui Alberto Faria da Costa (Movistar). “This is the result of our homework before this race. Actually we missed out by very little in Plouay in August and also in Quebec, the Movistar team was always seen at the front but we missed out so in the morning, Yvon told all the riders that he had decided that Rui and Rojas would be the two leaders of the team. I told them to make sure that we didn’t come to Canada to go home empty-handed so please do your best. And that’s exactly what Rui did, it paid off.”
“The Tour de France victory is very important but this one is special too, almost at the same level.”
Worried that the field would catch you? “When we had 15 seconds at the bottom, a gap both significant and small, I was confident, I was not afraid and was never nervous, I knew that it would go to the end.”
Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma Lotto). “Let’s call in a great result. I crashed during the race and in that moment, I was afraid that it was all over for me. When I went down, I thought immediately about the World Championships, and I told myself that it was maybe the end, it scared me. I had the same feeling last year when I crashed at the Vuelta when wearing the leader’s jersey. But after, I re-focused on the race and it was getting better and better. The headwind on the Mount-Royal climb made it impossible to create a gap. I tried with two laps to do to bridge up to the lead group and we got as close as 50 meters but I didn’t want to close it because there were some on my wheel that didn’t want to cooperate. I didn’t want to do all the work for them to I sat up and the group got away again. Then, different teams had to ride extremely fast in the finale and in the end, it helped me because the faster it I, the better for me generally. So it was good. Yes, it is a shame to come so close to victory but given the circumstances, the crash, etc I’m pretty happy to be third. These are prestigious races.”
About making a move sooner? (laughs) “I did a 500-meter sprint, that’s very hard. I think that I had give it one of the longest sprint of the season, making a move sooner was not possible.”
Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Cervelo). It’s hard to know everything that is happening, my radio wasn’t working actually. You have a tactic and a plan, my teammate Christian Vande Velde was very impressive on the Mount-Royal climb, he was right in there with that first real move that was putting on the pressure. So I didn’t really need to pay attention to that move, we were represented there, I just had to pay attention to Robert and Philippe, Levi, the other guys that I felt were good guys to be around. I was able to stay with them just fine over Mount-Royal, it ended putting quite a big group together. It was really my last ditch effort on the Polytechnique climb to try and separate and get some good guys going and try and make it. But there was too many guys from behind, definitely arriving with Philippe and some other riders is not a good situation for the sprint. Everyone missed out not being able to catch the guys in the break, that’s good biker racing there, hats off to those good guys.
Compare this year’s race to last year. “It was hard last year too. (Last year) the last time over Mount-Royal we only had Robert by himself and I think six of us that arrived at the line. (this year) A lot more guys, I don’t know if that is due to the longer distance, the race was very hard from the start, a lot more effort out of the legs in that first hour I think than last year so it all adds up. Normally when you see so many guys together even when it’s that difficult, that’s showing everybody is reduced. It just becomes harder to separate yourself when everyone is fatigued, and guys that are taking risks and going on the attack, the more guys that are doing this, the more volatile the race gets, sometimes it works and it sticks like today.”
Top 10 Results
1. Rui Alberto Faria da Costa (Movistar) 5:20:18
2. Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ)
3. Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma Lotto) +00:02
4. Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma Lotto)
5. Stefan Denifl (Leopard-Trek)
6. Daniele Pietropolli (Lampre-ISD) +00:04
7. Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM)
8. Arthur Vichot (FDJ)
9. Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale)
10. Fabian Wegmann (Leopard-Trek)