The first of the only two World Tour races in North America snaked its way through Québec on sixteen laps of a punchy and technical circuit this afternoon. The course, especially with its uphill finish, was one for the puncheurs, those riders who can go into the red over and over while retaining something extra special for the waning moments of the race. In other words, it favors the same riders that will be targeting the World Championships road race in Limburg in two weeks time. Though the races have attained special status on their own, eyes are turned especially keenly towards Canada this weekend to see who has the goods in the last days before Worlds.
Simon Gerrans confirmed his status as a favorite for Worlds by winning in a two-up sprint over Greg Van Avermaet mere seconds ahead of a depleted peleton. The duo had attacked 4 kilometers from the finish on the final climb and began collaborating immediately. Their gap quickly rose over ten seconds, at which point Peter Sagan, an ominous presence in the chase group, realized that he had to bridge the gap on his own as nobody else would tow him to the line. Sagan looked poised to bridge the gap in short fashion but stalled several seconds behind the two leaders, eventually fading to 26th in the final 300 meters. Instead, it was Tour de Suisse winner Rui Costa who won the sprint for third ahead of Luca Paolini. In the sprint for the win, Gerrans calmly led into the final 300m and jumped on Van Avermaet's wheel when he opened up his sprint outside of 200 meters to the finish before coming around for a convincing victory. It was precisely the cool, collected demeanor which allowed Gerrans to win Milan - San Remo in March.
A sizable breakaway of 8 riders stayed away until the final two laps. As soon as they were caught, Chris Anker Sorensen of Saxo Bank and Bruno Langlois of Team Canada made a bid for freedom. They held a narrow fifteen second gap coming into the final lap, at which point the writing was on the wall for the two escapees.
Several big names who are favorites for Worlds sat up on the final lap or even earlier, including hometown favorite Ryder Hesjedal, Pierrick Fedrigo, Edvald Boasson Hagen, and Dan Martin.