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Two days after winning in Québec City, Australian national champion Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) won again, in Montréal, becoming the first rider in the event’s five-year history to sweep the Grands Prix Cyclistes Québec et Montréal weekend of WorldTour races.
Gerrans finished ahead of world champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), the 2011 Montréal race winner, and Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Beilisol).
“Ultimately, again, it was a great day for Orica-GreenEdge,” Gerrans said. “It was perfectly executed by the team. We took control of the race from the start. There were lots of my teammates there in the final, and we finished it off perfectly. It’s very incredible that we swept the weekend. It’s extraordinary.”
The 17-lap, 205km course delivered almost 13,000 feet of elevation gain, with three significant climbs on each 12km circuit — first, the 1.8km Côte Camilien-Houde, atop Mount Royal, for which the city is named; then the 780-meter Côte de la Polytechnique; and, finally, the 560-meter uphill finish on Avenue du Parc.
The day’s main breakaway was established early, with four riders — Ryan Roth (Canadian National), Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ.com), Jan Polanc (Lampre-Merida) and Louis Vervaeke (Lotto-Belisol) — opening a five-minute lead within 20km.
By the end of the second lap, the gap was up to 7:08, and at the end of the third lap, it had grown to 10:45. After 50km, it had ballooned to 12:15. Behind, Movistar, Astana, and Orica drove the chase.
A brief split in the peloton, 63km into the race, caused a bit of panic, as about 25 riders, mostly from Movistar, Belkin, Astana, Trek and FDJ, slipped away. That split was short-lived, however, and after eight of 17 laps, the four riders held a lead of about nine minutes.
With five laps remaining, that advantage was down to 5:30 as Movistar, Astana, and Orica-GreenEdge continued to drive the chase. Two laps later, as the race for the finale began in earnest, the lead was down to just three minutes.
With 35km to go, Roth and Jeannesson lost contact with the 20-tear-old Polanc and the 22-year-old Vervaeke. At 25km to go, the two leaders held a 2:25 gap with Astana driving the chase.
Inside the final 20km, Jeannesson lost contact, leaving Polanc alone at the front with a 1:30 advantage over the peloton.
Polanc was caught with 10km to go, on the final ascent of Camillien-Houde, after almost 195km off the front of the race.
Soon after his teammate had been caught, Costa attacked, creating a nine-man selection that included Gallopin, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Gianni Meersman (Lotto-Belisol), Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Bauke Mollema (Belkin).
Gerrans initially missed the move, but chased back on. After a bit of cat-and-mouse, the lead group was caught, and about 30 riders rolled on toward the finish line. Also in that group: Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), Jan Bakelandts (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin), and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano).
Several Orica riders, including Daryl Impey, Michael Albasini, Peter Weening, Simon Yates, and Jens Keukeleire, all remained at the front of the race, and drove the pace for Gerrans inside the final 5km.
Costa tried one final attack, but in the lead-in to the 560-meter uphill finish on Avenue du Parc, it was clear a bunch kick was inevitable. And in the final 200 meters, it was clear the race was for second place, as Gerrans easily took the sprint.
“I tried two attacks in the final,” Costa said. “My goal was to avoid arriving with a big pack. But it did not work. The Orica team very strong and Simon was too fast for me. This result reassures me about my condition. But the favorite for the worlds… on what he showed today, it is Simon. He may be favorite number one.”
Orica team director Matt Wilson said the entire squad had the utmost assurance in Gerrans’ ability to finish off for his second consecutive win.
“On a hard race like this, with a select group, he is one of the fastest guys in the world, and we are all supremely confident in him,” Wilson said. “Even despite that, the guys we have here at the finish (Michael) Albasini, (Daryl) Impey and even (Jens) Keukeleire as well, these are all world class guys in that sort of finish so when you put them all together, it’s a pretty unbeatable combination.
“We had a really good look at how the race went the last few years and we knew that it was teams with numbers that could control it in the final and come up trumps,” Wilson continued. “We gambled that it would be the case again and tried to use minimum guys all day, just wait for that last five kilometres and really take control then which is exactly what happened. Mat (Hayman) had the most work to do today. It fell to Christian (Meier) in Quebec but we felt Christian could possibly go a bit further into the day today being a climber and we could use him a little later on. Then it was up to the other guys in the finish.”
With the two one-day wins on circuits similar to a world championship course , Gerrans instantly becomes a five-star favorite for the world road championship in Ponferrada, Spain, two weeks’ time.
“The Orica teamwork was amazing,” Gerrans said. “My teammates had confidence in me, and I knew that if they took me to the sprint, there was a good chance of victory. To win both Québec and Montréal, it’s great. I’m really happy. It was a difficult course, not necessarily favorable to sprinters, but I was confident throughout the race. I think my wins here show that I am fit for worlds. I hope to arrive in Ponferrada in the same condition.”
Results (top 20)
1. Simon Gerrans (AUS/Orica), 205.9 km in 5:24:27 (38.04kph)
2. Rui Costa (POR) m.t.
3. Tony Gallopin (FRA) m.t.
4. Ramunas Navardauskas (LTU) m.t.
5. Romain Bardet (FRA) m.t.
6. Tom Dumoulin (NED) m.t.
7. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL) m.t.
8. Jonathan Hivert (FRA) m.t.
9. Enrico Gasparotto (ITA) m.t.
10. Bauke Mollema (NED) m.t.
11. Cyril Gautier (FRA) m.t.
12. Tom Slagter (NED) m.t.
13. Petr Vakoc (CZE) m.t.
14. Jesus Herrada (ESP) m.t.
15. Jelle Vanendert (BEL) m.t.
16. Sep Vanmarcke (BEL) m.t.
17. Simon Geschke (GER) m.t.
18. Francesco Gavazzi (ITA) m.t.
19. Pierrick Fredrigo (FRA) m.t.
20. Davide Formolo (ITA) m.t.