Matthews sprints to Quebec win ahead of Van Avermaet
Michael Matthews (Sunweb) sprinted to his first WorldTour one-day victory at the GP Québec on Friday ahead of BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet and Trek-Segafredo’s Jasper Stuyven.
The 27-year-old Australian, twice a podium finisher in Québec, was among the pre-race favorites, and he lived up to expectations thanks to his powerful finishing kick. As the peloton swallowed up late attacker Peter Kennaugh (Bora-Hansgrohe), Matthews worked himself into prime position for the long uphill sprint. He let others fire first before kicking into gear and hitting the front for the final hundred meters.
From there Matthews stormed to a clear victory, leaving Van Avermaet to settle for runner-up honors for the third year in a row and the fourth time in his career. Stuyven made a late surge to nab the final spot on the podium.
The ninth edition of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec stuck to a familiar formula, taking riders through 16 laps of a 12.6-kilometer circuit with visits to Old Québec and the banks of the Saint Lawrence River. With Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) racing the Vuelta a España, there would be no title defense at this year’s GP Québec, but there were nonetheless several familiar contenders — Van Avermaet and Matthews among them — staying patient throughout the day awaiting the always hectic uphill finale.
It did not take long for the morning breakaway to get clear on the rolling parcours, with five riders firing off the front early on in the race. Canadians Rob Britton (Rally), Alex Cataford (UnitedHealthcare), and Bruno Langlois (national team) gave home fans something to cheer for up the road, with Nic Dougall (Dimension Data) and Guy Sagiv (Israel Cycling Academy) rounding out the move. The gap hovered between five and six minutes for much of the afternoon.
With 50 kilometers to go, the gap began to drop steadily as Sunweb, BMC, and Quick-Step emerged as the most prominent teams at the head of affairs in the peloton. The gap was down to just over two minutes with 40 kilometers to go, and inside a minute for the final 30 kilometers. The looming chase saw the escape begin to fall apart. Dougall was dropped with 25 kilometers to go, and then Langlois and Britton left their breakaway companions behind to push on alone for the final two laps.
With only 30 seconds separating the pack from the duo up the road, Kennaugh jumped clear to bridge the gap. As he caught and passed the flagging breakaway riders, who were then swept into the pack, others jumped into action as well. Robin Carpenter (Rally), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Mathias Frank (Ag2r La Mondiale) spurred a group of chasers as Kennaugh tried his luck solo off the front.
The Manxman held out as the small collection of pursuers was reabsorbed in the final lap, but he could not keep the bunch at bay all the way to the line. A charging peloton swallowed Kennaugh up inside the final 500 meters to set up the sprint.
In the final kick, Bahrain-Merida’s Sonny Colbrelli got an early start on the right side of the road before Van Avermaet surged into the frame. When Matthews hit the front, however, there was no denying him the win. The 2017 Tour de France points champ had time for a healthy celebration as he rolled over the line for the convincing win ahead of Van Avermaet and Stuyven.
Matthews, Van Avermaet, and the rest of the big names in Canada will get to put their talents on display again in just two days time. The GP Montréal gets underway on Sunday.