MONTREAL (VN) — Peter Sagan (Cannondale) soloed to victory at Sunday’s Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal after a bold attack on the Côte de la Polytechnique left his main rivals reeling behind. True to form, after crossing the finish line, Sagan popped his trademark wheelie and saluted the crowd. Simone Ponzi (Astana) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) were second and third at four seconds back.
Sagan’s victory comes as redemption after his disappointing 10th-place finish at Friday’s Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec.
“I think my result in Québec was my fault — even though I was feeling good, I went too early,” acknowledged Sagan. “I had big objectives coming into Montréal, so I am very happy with my victory.”
Sagan’s move on the last lap came after numerous attacks were launched by Robert Gesink (Blanco) and Hesjedal. Gesink was the first to attack on the Côte Camilien-Houde. Sagan countered, but was brought back and a thinned-out, select group made up of the favorites crested the top of the climb together. Chris Froome (Sky) attacked on the descent with 8 kilometers to go, but was also brought back.
When the race hit the bottom of the Côte de la Polytechnique, Gesink attacked again, the same move that earned him his first victory in Montréal in 2010. After taking nearly 100 meters, he was caught by a highly motivated Hesjedal, who had Sagan glued to his wheel.
“When I saw Ryder go, I thought that maybe the two of us could work together, so I went with him on the climb,” said Sagan.
However, with 5km to go, Sagan attacked, leaving Hesjedal behind.
“I felt really good on the last lap,” said Sagan. “I saw other riders going too hard on the climb, so I decided to attack and see what would happen.”
Sagan acknowledged that his early move was a bit risky, given what had happened in Québec.
“I made the same ‘mistake’ in Québec, but today, it worked,” said Sagan.
Sagan’s early attack came as a surprise to Hesjedal.
“I didn’t think anyone would come around me on Polytechnique,” said Hesjedal. “Hat’s off to Peter. It was a strong move.”
Hesjedal said that after the group “snapped” on the top of the Côte Camilien-Houde and there was a selection, his objective was to keep the pace high and not have it regroup. He also thought that his attack on the Côte de la Polytechnique was the right move.
“Polytechnique is where I had to make the race and I thought I had the legs to go,” said Hesjedal. “I can’t go into the last corner [toward the uphill finish] with some of these guys for a sprint — it’s just too much of a gamble. I made my move and was happy with the outcome.”
Hesjedal’s third-place result finished off a disappointing season on a high note.
“After abandoning the Giro and getting injured at the Tour, to end up third in this field is really something,” said Hesjedal. “I’m definitely very happy.”
Hesjedal, who finished his season in Montréal, said his preparation over the last month contributed to his performance.
“I really wanted to do a good race and everything came together today,” added Hesjedal. “I put together some really good training after the Tour of Utah, and the Tour of Alberta was great.”
Hesjedal, who will not be racing at the upcoming world championships, is looking to put his 2013 campaign behind him, but also saw the positive in his performance.
“I’m happy to end the season on a high note. I have shown today that I can still race my bike and that I can keep improving,” he said. “But I’ve gone through a lot of new and tough experiences since winning the Giro last year.
“It was a great honor to be able to race here and finish my season here. But I am looking forward to next season and putting this season behind me.”
Asked why he was not racing at the world championships, Hesjedal simply answered with a smile, “I’m tired.”
No double for Gesink
Despite attacking twice on the final lap, neither of Gesink’s moves stuck, denying him a second victory after his win in Québec on Friday.
“I had the same legs as Friday,” said Gesink. “But in the end, it was difficult because you had a headwind on the climb, which made it difficult to attack. I got a gap after I attacked on the Côte Camilien Houde, and kept going, but everything has to come together at the right moment.
“I gambled again with a second attack on the Côte de la Polytechnique, but Sagan was really strong.”
Gesink, who won in Montréal in 2010, finished 12th, 26 seconds behind Sagan.