Culture

Races we love: Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec and Montreal

Oh, Canada!

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I have covered the Canadian Grand Prix races, the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec and the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal, every year since they were launched in 2010. Alas, in 2020 and 2021 both races were called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But that does not mean that they are not still some of the races we love — far from it!

These races aren’t the first major pro events in Quebec. Back in the 1980s and 90s there was the Grand Prix des Ameriques, which attained World Cup status. That race was great, but making two events a WorldTour double header in 2010 was an instant recipe for success.

Race organizer Serge Arsenault is sincerely passionate about cycling, and he possesses an “only the best” mentality for all involved in the race. Each year the majority of the peloton arrives the Tuesday before Friday’s race in Quebec via a chartered jet from Paris. And for years they have stayed in the historic Château Frontenac resort. Needless to say, the mood amongst the riders is good.

For some riders, the early September races are a way to wind down after a long season. And Quebec provides a great opportunity for fans to meet some of their favorite riders, because the mood is always relaxed.

But for some riders, like Peter Sagan, the two races offer the perfect preparation for the world championships. It was there in Quebec that Sagan scored his 100th career victory when he triumphed in Quebec for the second straight year in 2017.

But Sagan is not the only two-time winner. Michael Matthews doubled in Quebec in 2018 and 2019, and Greg Van Avermaet has twice won the Montreal race, and Matthews along with Robert Gesink have managed to win both races.

What really sets these races apart, however, is the unique backdrop of both Quebec and Montreal. The two cities could not be more different. The Quebec race loops through the quaint historic center of the old town, while the Montreal race is held over much of the 1976 Olympic Road Race circuit that features the climb through Mont Royal Park and skirts through the city streets. And the circuit race format always attracts good crowds, as fans can see their favorite riders race by over a dozen times during the day.

In some ways these races somehow manage to fly under the radar in the U.S. media, considering that for much of the past 12 years they were the only WorldTour races in North America.

While they have had to cancel the last two editions, organizers promise to be back. And the fact that Montreal is a candidate city for the 2026 world championships will only help, as it promises to provide increased focus on the Canadian Grand Prix events. And that is good news for bike racing fans.