Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal Preview
And closing on the weekend in Canada is the circuit in Montréal, as Quebéc it is usually one for the puncheurs but this one usually is much more exciting, the rougher profile and the presence of a main climb allows the riders to have a proper place to attack and make the race, this is a race where the climbers also have a saying and well, the sprinters do to! The last few years have had a combination of puncheurs and sprinters taking the wins, but of course those are no ordinary sprinters, so let's see what they'll face.
In with 221.5 Kilometers in distance this is the Montreal circuit we all know. There are 18 laps on a 12.5Km long circuit which involves a whole hell of a lot of climbing. But then again, so did Quebec and it always comes down to a sprint there. But here there's an actual climb that can set differences, so let's take a closer look at the profile.
Not bad, there's the Côte Camillien-Houde, or the Mont Royal, right after the riders pass by the finish line, then mostly a descent run-up back into the finishing avenues with some short ramps and technical streets inbetween.
The main climb of the circuit is no easy one, it's 1.7Km long at 7.9% and it's quite a constant one with the gradients always similar, there are no hairpins and no real accelaration spots so we can understand why it usually doesn't create big gaps, still if attacked hard it has what it takes to blow the race appart into groups, but it's what happens after that decides the race.
As you can see the descent is almost straightforward, and after finishing it up there are quite some turns in what is the urban section of the circuit. There are two small climbs in there that shouldn't make much of a difference, but actually, this year they may do, the reason comes below.
No rain but quite a strong wind, around 20Km/h from the west which will be very important in the finale as it will mean a headwind sprint. As for the circuit it won't benefit the attackers as the climb is somewhat affected but also the summit is quite exposed and mostly in a headwind. The decisive attacks may come after that descent as there there will be some tailwind approaching the finish.
Puncheurs or Sprinters?
As in Quebec there is a big big list of favourites, after all, it's a hilly classic with a flatish finish, it is usually very open and more often a race of opportunity than one of power. Deceuninck come as favourites despite not such a dominant performance in Quebec, but more climbing focused Montreal will favour, with Alaphillipe who looked good alongside his right-hand man Dries Devenyns, but we should see Asgreen, Mas and Evenepoel more active as it will suit them better.
As for past winners they are widely represented, there's the 2011 winner Rui Costa and 2017 winner Diego Ulissi riding for UAE, they have Dan Martin who doesn't look at his best, but Ulissi is on great form and is a serious favourite. 2016 winner Greg van Avermaet comes after a consistent but very strong third place in Quebec, Tim Wellens who won in 2015 is also coming in strong and suits this profile perfectly as a powerful rider who can climb as well as all others. In this list of more punchy rider who will be looking to cause damage on the climbs are the AG2R duo of Naesen and Cosnefroy, Alberto Bettiol and Michael Woods representing EF anda dynamic Dimension Data who come with Tom Slagter who was 6th in Quebec, but also Michael Valgren and Roman Kreuziger who on paper should be right up there in the big league.
As for the sprinters there's also past winners, in last year's winner Michael Matthews I take good confidence, after completing the duo last year and coming from a dominant win yesterday he is also one of the big favourites specially seeing how he's able to climb, and supported by Marc Hirschi. And the final one won back in 2013, Peter Sagan of course, his response to Alaphillipe in Quebec was a very good sign of his current form, his sprint wasn't the fastest but this race will come down less to the sprinting ability so it's not a concern to have, he has Patrick Konrad as an alternative who can also climb these punchy hills very well.
Finally there's Bahrain Merida, Sonny Colbrelli is the obvious name to take into acount, Matej Mohoric and Vincenzo Nibali should be on the attack early on the race as that's their type of racing, but my big question is over what Ivan Cortina does, to me he's the rider with the most chances of winning between those but he also finds himself working in the peloton, so it will depend on the team's intentions.
What influence can the climbers have?
A lot actually. Saying it's a climber-focused race is wrong, but over the years we've seen plenty examples of climbers capable of dealing with these punchy peaks as well as the pure puncheurs. Now, that is one thing, form is another, however placings in the peloton give me the confidence Adam Yates is in good form, but Mitchelton's big name for me is Jack Haig, he is a climber but the way he rode in Plouay was mightily impressive and I would expect nothing less here, he looked very explosive in Quebec but timed his move wrong. With Daryl Impey as a backup to sprint and possibly Lucas Hamilton in the fight too, Mitchelton is a big team to take into account.
Rudy Molard and Valentin Madouas seem to be the riders to watch in FDJ, both can climb but both deal better with this type of climb, there's Bauke Mollema leading Trek, although Stuyven has been nothing but impressive the Dutchman should have the freedom to do his own race, and the big big joker in my deck is James Piccoli, he's no unknown if you follow cycling up close, he is a punchy climber too and was 22nd in Quebec racing with the national team who can't give much support, I hope to see him fly in Mont Royal. Lastly I'll drop a mention on Geraint Thomas, doesn't look in good form but he's always been one strong in this type of race.
Deceuninck/CCC/UAE/Lotto/Mitchelton - These are the teams that will want to pick up the race, the ones that will be on the attack the most with the strongest climbers.
Sunweb/Bora/Bahrain - These will want to keep it under control, they have the fast men that could profit in the end.
AG2R/EF/FDJ/DD - Also targeting the climbs but not as strong, perhaps would profit from some after-climb surprise attack attemps.
Astana/Jumbo/Trek/Canada - These have some riders that can be backed up but both in depth and individual leader they don't look as strong.
INEOS/Movistar/Katusha/Israel - These have some riders but none close to the top at the moment.
Rally - As Canadian as a zamboni, they earned their spot here and may honor it with a strong performance from a breakaway like in Quebec.
⭐ Asgreen, A.Yates, Impey, Hirschi, Cosnefroy, Naesen, Valgren, Bettiol, Mollema
And my call is for Diego Ulissi to take the win. Prestine season, prestine form and he's got a strong team, but above all a sprint that is very strong for his climbing capacity. My real scenario, him, Alaphillipe and Haig attack on the final climb to Mont Royal and Ulissi is the fastest in the end after they hold off the chasers.
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