The 16-lap, 201.6 kilometre WorldTour race, saw an early break on the first lap as Ireland’s Matt Brammeier (Team Dimension Data) surged from the gun to lead a group of six escapees into the 7th Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec. He was rapidly joined by Lars Bak (Lotto Soudal), Maxim Belkov (Team Katusha), Valerio Agnoli (Lampre- Marida), Twan Castelijns (Team Lotto NL-Jumbo), and Alexandre Pichot (FDJ).
By the end of the first lap, the six had been joined by Jan Barta (Bora Argon 18) and Team Canada’s Nicolas Masbourian while his teammate Matteo Dal-Cin was unsuccessfully trying to bridge the gap.
The peloton was then content with controlling the break, trimming the gap down to two minutes with five laps and 60 km to go. The tempo raised in the 13th lap, when Lars Bak decided to go on his own while Castelijns and Belkov were pulled back by the peloton, followed by the rest of the breakaway group.
With 40km to go, Bak was reined in by Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx Quick Step) and Luke Rowe (Team Sky) as the peloton split in several groups. The Frenchman and the Welshman stayed in the front for less than a lap before being brought back in the last 25 km.
While attempts multiplied, Matej Mohoric (Lampre-Merida) tried to go on his own but was also reeled in. More brave attempts came from Germany’s Paul Voss (Team Bora Argon 18), who attacked in the last ascent of Cote des Glacis with 12 km to go, and recent Bretagne Classic winner Oliver Naesen (IAM Cycling).
In the last two kilometers, Julian Alaphilippe tried his luck again, aided by teammate Matteo Trentin and Team Sky’s Gianni Moscon, who went on to win the KOM classification.
Sagan surged to the front in the final 50 metres to beat Olympic champion Greg van Avermaet (BMC) of Belgium and Anthony Roux (FDJ) of France. Boivin was the best Canadian finishing in a small group just five seconds back.
“I’m surprised because I didn’t really prepare for theses races. After the Tour de France I trained for the mountain bike in Rio and then I was sick. There was some headwind in the last stretch and everybody who attacked in the end found it very hard. Rigoberto Uran tried the same as last year but it was different this time. The last three kilometers were very fast and when I saw Rigobert in the front I told myself maybe we’re going to sprint for second place. But there was a very fast sprint from Anthony Roux, he started early and pulled a good sprint for me. Thanks to him. My team-mates did a very good job today. I’m very happy to win because I didn’t feel very good. I had cramps towards the end. It’s too early to talk about Montréal, we had a race today, we’ll take some rest tomorrow and then we’ll see,” said Sagan.
“This race is one of the hardest races in the season,” said Boivin. “I had a pretty good ten days of training [after his crash], and I thought I felt not too bad. But training and racing are different beasts, so it is hard to know how your form is. With four laps to go I was feeling pretty good, and just to be here was a bit of a miracle, so I’m definitely happy with the result. Hopefully I can build on that for world championships in mid-October.
“I opted for the same strategy as Peter Sagan to try and save strength for the finale. I had a slight problem in the last bump and my feet slid off the pedals. But I fought hard and I’m happy with my race. It’s a morale booster to see that with so little training I managed to do well and that the ten days of work I did paid off. I was as serious as I could be in my prep. I gave it 110 % and I’m happy with the result. Nobody can be surprised by seeing Peter Sagan win here. I rode two years with him with Cannondale and we have seen very few guys like this in cycling. I was in his team when he won in Montréal. We share great memories together,” added Boivin.
Olympic gold medalist Van Avermaet commented, “It’s true that I didn’t know what to expect because I have only had one race since the Olympics. Usually, I attack in the last climb but this time I decided to wait for the last sprint. I think it was the right decision but Peter was simply too strong. Montréal is probably not a race that suits me as much because there are longer climbs. It’s more for Peter I think. But these races are in any case the perfect preparation for the world championships even if my expectations for the worlds are not so high. The course that suited me was last year’s in Richmond when Peter won. This time, it is more for pure sprinters.”