• Rúben Silva

Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec Preview

With the Vuelta's final week wrapping up there's a smell of the classics emerging from the other side of the ocean. As every year in September the Canadian classics take over the cycling world for a weekend and it's a chance to see the classics men, the sprinters and climbers all have their chances all at once. It's a race with an exciting profile, however it usually all comes down to the final lap of a hilly circuit around the center of Québec, so let's take a look at how things will pan out this year.

The Route

It is the profile we well know, the race is 201.6 kilometers long as every year, having 16 laps of a hilly and quite punchy circuit in the streets of Quebéc. If you're a fan of the race or plan on watching you know very well what to expect, it's exactly the same route as past years but check out the main interest points.

Every lap is 12.6 kilometers long, the first 4 are in some central roads inside the park and after that there's a short but steep descent into the riverside, where there will be a road around 3.5Km long that is wide and perfect for high speeds, the fighting for positioning will all come down to these kilometers, because after leaving this road it becomes winding and technical.

Below you will find all the details.

The first kilometers are mostly flat, the real important section of the circuit are the final kilometers and as you can see they are quite rolling. There's some very steep ramps there inbetween but usually no vital moves happen there, it is usually a fatiguing job until the bottom of that final ascent to the line where the attacks come, in that 7% ramp there is usually great great interest, as few teams have riders able to help out and a strong rider can really benefit from the lack of organization.

It's also quite technical as you see, that start will really stretch things up as there's a bending steep-ish descent right after the ramp, and then there's lots of corners until the final kilometer.

The Weather

Just a little breeze from the east, will indeed mean a tailwind for the final kilometer which would indeed help an attack, but it is a week one so I wouldn't expect any difference to actually be made by it.

Puncheurs or Sprinter?

Let's start with last year's winner Michael Matthews, coming after a disapointing Tour and season in general here he finds favourable terrain, it's a classic where other teams will have repsonsability and the roads aren't hard enough for serious attacks but not easy enough for the pure sprinters, adding to the mega startlist he finds himself out of his own Matthews curse (did I invent that?), he has Marc Hirschi with him who is being one of the revelations of the season and he can either play a big support role or cover moves, either ways they are looking good for the race. His arch-nemesis though, Peter Sagan is also here, also a winner back in 2016 and 2017 it's more than obvious this race is tailor-made for him aswell, he was sixth in Hamburg leading up to the race and seems in good form to repeat his feat, he too has good support and like Matthews he has a great backup in Patrick Konrad.

There's another rider who fits this race perfectly, the successor of the Matthews curse Sonny Cobrelli. What happens is that in stage-races, whenever a stage suits him perfectly it also suits a breakaway perfectly, and usually his team can't do the work to put him in position to win. But here is where he can indeed profit, he's had a lot of racing since the Tour and has a stage in Germany included, perhaps on the form of his life he is a great contender and will be relaxed as support will be aplenty, not only Nibali and Caruso but in Mohoric and Cortina he has genuine riders to attack that are favourites themselves. In this cateogory of sprinters with lots of backups there's also Dimension Data who have been rising form, Ryan Gibbons has a race that favours him so let's take a look at how he does, but the team's focus should be on the attacking side, Michael Valgren has finally risen into form in the last month or so, and with Enrico Gasparotto and Roman Kreuziger also in the team things looks bright for a strong result.

Outside from those I'd expect something big also from Davide Ballerini of Astana, he's been having a great sprint lately and I would even consider him more of a puncheurs so I know he can handle it, Danny van Poppel from Jumbo-Visma, there's Trek who will also have an interesting team, Jasper Stuyven as had an interesting season and has the edge to be there in the end, he has Toms Skujins and Bauke Mollema as riders with the power to attack the race hard too, and my wildcard for this race here would be August Jensen of Israel Cycling Academy.

And who are the puncheurs here?

Out of the puncheurs let's start with the elephant in the room, Deceuninck. Firstly there's Julian Alaphillipe, he hasn't been sharp since recovering from the Tour and a long season, but with the worlds in sight he will be doing his best to be on the rise, but with him there's also Enric Mas who looked like the strongest rider in San Sebastian, should be on the duty tomorrow but will be peeking, there's Remco Evenepoel who would fancy long distance attacks mainly, but in any case is a big engine to help and finally Kasper Asgreen, he is far from just a sprinter but he has quite the speed, he may save himself for the finish but don't be surprised if he attacks because he's also the ideal type of rider to attack.

Greg van Avermaet, he's been second four (4!!!) times and has never won, this record is painful to look at, and despite looking at his best since 2017 (in my eye) he is very complete but will always have someone above him, he's not the strongest puncheurs and the strongest sprinter but he's perhaps the most reliable rider to see up there. On the Belgian side there's also Oliver Naesen, who together with Benoit Cosnefroy are in great form and should try to light up the race, and there's the recent Plouay winner Sep Vanmarcke in another very strong team, having Alberto Bettiol and Michael Woods as a great combination for some offensive riding. Finally there's also Tim Wellens leading Lotto Soudal, another rider in great form looking into the worlds and he will ahve his freedom, but also has a strong sprint if it comes down to that.

Finally in the more climbing side there's some interesting names, UAE with Diego Ulissi likely in the lead, but also Rui Costa and Dan Martin, who will be targeting more seriously Montreal but will have their ultimate test here in Quebéc. There's Mitchelton, Jack Haig was recently been third in Plouay, he has with him Lucas Hamilton who recently won in Czech and Adam Yates who's trying to come back to form after a disapointing Tour. There's Groupama-FDJ with a threatening trio of Valentin Madouas and Rudy Molard who should be on the lookout for the moves, but also Anthony Roux who was third in 2016 but has a consistent record over the years. And last but not least there's INEOS, not to say the route suits them at all but having Michal Kwiatkowski and Geraint Thomas in the lineup there's reasons to believe they may have their intentions.

The Teams

Sunweb/Bora - These two teams have the biggest favourites in the race, and should work to keep things compact.

Bahrain/Trek/CCC/DD - These teams have both the options to either go for the sprint or be on the offensive specially in the final lap.

Astana/Jumbo - These will surely go for the sprint, have solid sprinters that can contest for the line but won't be working and don't have real riders to make big damage in the peloton.

Deceuninck/AG2R/UAE/Lotto/FDJ/EF/Mitchelton - From these, I know it's a lot, should come the main attacks. Teams betting on the climbs as they lack in sprinters, so they should light up the race up.

Movistar/Katusha/Israel - These have some riders that can be contesting some places in the Top10 but only with some good legs and smart racing, they won't go above that.

Rally/Canada - The invited teams, not much to expect from them other than a breakaway.

Prediction Time

Sagan, Matthews

Alaphillipe, Asgreen, Colbrelli, Stuyven, Wellens

Evenepoel, GV.Avermaet, Cosnefroy, Vanmarcke, Ulissi, Ballerini, Valgren

My call is for Peter Sagan to return to his wins in Canada. Always looked good here, he's got the team but so do others to keep it under control and Sagan has the sprint to finish it off as he has done so often.

Make sure to let me in on your opinion, and of course follow me on twitter for the latest updates!