September 16, 2013 (Montreal, QC) – He was the arch-favourite and after several unsuccessful attempts, Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale finally won the Grand Prix cycliste de Montreal in style on Sunday. The in-form Slovak, fresh from a successful North-American campaign in Colorado and Alberta, timed his move to perfection, at 5.5km from the line, to finish on his own on Avenue du Parc.
“I finally get a victory from this adventure here in Canada. It’s a very good test for the Road World championships,” said the Cannondale cannonball, who executed one of his spectacular wheelies after crossing the line.
The Slovak, who has won seven races during his North-American stay, upstaged Italy’s Simone Ponzi (Astana) by four seconds while local favourite Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp equalled his 2010 finishing on the flanks of Mont Royal in third place, at five seconds adrift.
“I saw that the others were a little bit tired and that’s why I went after Ryder. My chances at the world championships are not so great because Slovakia is a small country and we don’t have such a great team. Winning one of the races here in Quebec was my real end-of-the-season objective,” said Sagan.
Sagan found himself in the group of 15 to 20 favourites who remained in the contention as things exploded on the last lap with attacks from all sides. Grand Prix du Quebec winner Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin surged twice in the finale but his moves were short-lived and he was reeled in each time.
Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Gbr) Sky was also seen on the move in the Camilien-Houde climb, but the Briton, whose TeamSky were depleted by a crash with five laps to go, was also shut down quickly. Even Alberto Contador (Esp) Saxo-Tinkoff tried his luck on Camilien-Houde with one lap to go before conceding defeat.
Hesjedal’s own attempt in the final ascent of the Cote de Polytechnique looked like it could stick, but the 2012 Giro winner finally served as a lead-out man for Sagan, who made his move in Hesjedal’s slipstream.
“I had an up and down season and I really wanted to finish on a high note,” said Hesjedal, who confirmed he was putting an end to his season and would not take part in the Road World Championships in Florence, Italy, later this month.
“But I certainly did not expect to see Peter ride past the way he did. He was the stronger man today,” the Canadian added.
Ponzi achieved one of his career-best results by finishing on the podium of a WorldTour race as he narrowly beat Hesjedal, the local favourite, who really gave it his all to snatch a medal spot.
The GPM went to Belgium’s Jan Bakelants, another of the most active riders on the 205.7 kms and 17 laps of the Montreal classic.
For the Canadian team, the objectives was to execute, and leaving everything on the road and both these objectives were met. “We came out of Quebec with a little bit of disappointment as we were definitely hoping to be in the hunt there. We talked together as a team and wanted to be a bit more on task,” said Team Canada director sportif Kevin Field.
“We didn’t want to miss the break today, and it was awesome to see Zach [Bell] in the break for Team Canada and Garneau-Quebecor. The way the final ended today, it made for a really super hard Grand Prix of Montreal, most likely one of the hardest we have ever seen.”
Ryan Roth of Guelph, ON (Champion System Pro Cycling) was the top member of Team Canada in 79th. Ryan Anderson of Vancouver, BC, Antoine Duchesne of Québec, QC, and Nic Hamilton of Victoria, BC all followed shortly after.
“We had our fingers crossed to see Antoine, Ryan and Nic be strong for that final. They did their best, and what they could. Ultimately, we have to be honest with ourselves that it is the World Tour, and when the World Tour goes off big, it’s difficult to have speed and depth for guys who are racing at the continental or pro-continental level.”
“Ryan has been riding really well this season, but definitely lacking the 200km of racing. And the same can be said for all the guys here. Great events and racing for everyone on the team, but when you are not doing the 200km races at that intensity, it’s always a little gamble to see how the guys would fare. We walk away from this race happy that they did their best, and realistic about the level they were competing in today,” concluded Field.
Zach Bell (North Vancouver, BC/Watson Lake, Yukon), wearing the special edition Canadian Champion jersey made by Louis Garneau Sports for these World Tour races, was in the main break of seven riders that took off early, giving his teammates a well-deserved break in the peloton. Bell stayed within the main group of seven for the majority of the race, before bowing to the public and stepping off the saddle as the break was caught and his day was done.
“It was not too hard for the break to get established. We rode hard for a lap or two. The group was pretty happy with the combination that was up there. Everybody worked well. But the main group was coming back quickly, and I didn’t have anything left to go any faster.”
Bell was pleased with the outcome of these two events in Quebec and Montreal, “Just like all the races we are starting to have, it gives spectators an opportunity to get up close and personal with both the international stars of cycling and our own Canadian talent pool. They see we are capable, with guys in breaks and guys contesting for a finish. It’s good for the kids to understand that coming from this country, you can get to this level.”
Veilleux Ends Pro Career
The race in Montreal marked the very last professional cycling race for David Veilleux of Cap Rouge, QC (Team EuropCar). Veilleux announced on Sept. 11 that these two races would be his last, and took the opportunity of these two races on home soil to thank the his fans and those who have supported him during his short but successful career.
Notably, Veilleux wore this year the coveted Yellow jersey from the first to the fourth stage at the Criterium du Dauphiné World Tour stage race after an unanswered solo attack early in Stage 1. He also became the first Quebec-born athlete to complete the gruelling Tour de France.
Veilleux won six Road Canadian Championship titles in the espoir category, including four straight time trial titles from 2006 to 2009 inclusively, as well as winning the criterium title in 2010. At the World Championships in Denmark in 2011, Veilleux impressed many with a solid 19th position.
Bell was thankful for Veilleux’s contribution to the sport: “I intentionally waited for David at the finish line to shake his hand. Sport in Canada is losing one of its best ambassadors. Rightfully so, he had an amazing career, in such a short time. I don’t think anybody can fault him to leave the sport when he has. It would have been nice to see him ride longer, but we all understand his motivation. Congratulations to him.
Most of the peloton is now returning or flying to Europe for the Road World championships in Florence and Sagan said he would also take part in the team time trial with his Cannondale outfit.