Robert Gesink won the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec on Friday. Gesink (Belkin) won a long sprint from a reduced group to close the 201-kilometer WorldTour race.
French champion Arthur Vichot (FDJ.fr) was second and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) was third.
“I’m really, really happy,” said Gesink. “I’ve had a really tough year so far. The Giro didn’t work out and afterward I really wanted to show myself.”
After an active early going punctuated by a three-man breakaway, Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) countered an attack by Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) to open the action in the final, 12.6km lap through Quebec City. Terpstra rode across the race’s final circuit alone, with Sky, Lampre-Merida, and Astana leading the chase behind.
With 5km to go, Terpstra led the peloton by 30 seconds. With 4.5km to go, the gap was 25 seconds. The bunch drew him a further five seconds back in another half kilometer.
Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Sky) went to the front, but Peter Sagan (Cannondale) attacked 4km from the finish, at the foot of the Côte de la Montagne. The acceleration split what remained of the peloton and no rider to make the split was willing to help in the pursuit.
Sagan kicked again with 2.5km to go and Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Leopard) countered. Van Avermaet followed and left his Belgian countryman behind on the Côte de la Fabrique with 1.8km to go.
Van Avermaet caught Terpstra before the final rise to the finish, but Sagan was among the riders to draw him in. Gesink was in the group, as were Rui Costa (Movistar) and Fabian Wegmann (Garmin).
Gesink led into the final 800 meters and Simon Geschke (Argos-Shimano) jumped, followed by Terpstra. The group drew them back, though, and Peter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge) opened the sprint on the right side of the road.
Gesink surged on the left, opening a long, steady sprint. Van Avermaet sat on Sagan’s wheel, but was delayed when the Slovak champion dropped off the pace. The Belgian was able to come around Wegmann and closed on Vichot, but no one could come around Gesink in the final 50 meters.
Vichot held off Van Avermaet for second, leaving Wegmann to fourth.
“I can not be disappointed, because this is my first podium in a WorldTour classic,” said Vichot. “I had come to do something; I do not go away with the victory, but Robert Gesink was stronger.”
Van Avermaet didn’t shake off the close call so easily.
“I’m a little bit disappointed,” said Van Avermaet. “I think I was close to winning. But I was waiting a bit for Sagan in the sprint. But he was also tired. Gesink did a really good sprint. I was a little bit too far back in the end. I’ll have another chance in Montréal, where I will try to do another good result and hopefully it will be first place.”
The Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal closes out the two-race WorldTour stop in Canada on Sunday.