On the eve of the 2016 GP de Quebec, the expected protagonists of the race were presented to the press and provided their thoughts on how the one-day event will play out. Etixx-QuickStep have one of the stronger squads for the race with Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe and Petr Vakoc both capable of challenging for the win but it was Tom Boonen on media duties for the Belgian team
"I came to race here last year because the World Championships were in Richmond and it suited well in the calendar. I really liked the races and that's why I came back," Boonen said ahead of the race. "The organization is superb with a finish 500 metres from here, and a very well organized circuit. I like to come here.
Boonen said the team are likely to put in place different tactics to last year as the 2015 champion Rigoberto Uran has moved on to Cannondale-Drapac.
"Last year we tried to control the finale, maybe we will not do this again this year but if everyone finishes together, I'll try to make a good sprint," he said.
The 2005 world champion also added in the press conference that regardless of what happens in Doha at the Worlds, he will definitely be hanging up his wheel after the spring classics.
"I'll stop my career after Paris Roubaix even if I win the World Championships. It would be a first and that's why I'm doing it. Paris-Roubaix is where it all started for me so it seems good to end there," he explained.
For BMC, Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet leads the line as he looks to improve on his second place finish in 2012 and third place in 2013.
I like Québec and Montréal, they are races that suit me. I had good results here, twice on the podium," Van Avermaet said. "And that's why I always come back, because I know I have good chances for a good result. It's a good race to come to after the Olympics. Maybe I'm a little bit better in Québec, I had better results here, there are shorter climbs than in Montréal. If I had to chose one, it would be Québec. It's easier for punchers to get a good result here. It's good to share the (biometric) information. It's more spectacular that people can see what we are doing."
Romain Bardet was another of the riders presented to the press with the Tour de France runner-up returning for a fifth time. Bardet has performed best at the GP de Montreal with fifth in 2014 and seventh last year and along with Canadian teammate Hugo Houle, will be the protected rider for AG2R-La Mondiale.
"Quebec suits me a little bit less. But it's very challenging to have to fight it out with the best punchers in the world now sitting next to me," Bardet said. "It's a difficult task, but I mean to do well. On a circuit as perfectly designed as this, you really want to give it your best shot to try to do a good sprint. We joined up with Hugo this morning. He's always smiling and yet very determined ahead of a race on home terrain. He's a very aggressive rider who can do well, especially in Québec. It's up to us to try and set him up as best as we can."
Two-year Wanty-Groupe Gobert deal for Xandro Meurisse
Belgian Pro-Continental squad Wanty-Groupe Gobert have announced it will sign stagiaire Xandro Meurisse on a two-year contract. The 24-year-old currently leads the king of the mountains classification at the Tour of Britain having joined the squad on August 1 and expressed his relief to have his future secure.
"I feel relieved. I finally become a professional rider. I'm so happy. I'm looking forward to the next season," said Meurisse.
Meurisse started the season on the books of Continental squad Crelan - Vastgoedservice with a stage win at the Four Days of Dunkirk his season highlight thus far. He also impressed the team with top-ten results at Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, Circuit des Ardennes International, Tour de Wallonie and recently finished fifth at Schaal Sels.
"I came back to Belgium in order to show my real potential. I've been feeling good since the start of the season. I started with a fifth place in the general classification of the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen. I think I deserve my place in the professional peloton," said Meurisse who rode for An Post-Chain Reaction in 2015.
Regarding his 2017 season goals, Meurisse explained he wants to impress in the Ardennes while helping out teammates.
"In 2017 I would like to test myself in races such as the Amstel Gold Race or Liège-Bastogne-Liège. I also like the stage races. I think I can help our climber Guillaume Martin in the mountains," he said.
Liv-Plantur signs Juliette Labous, extends with Julia Soek and Molly Weaver
"It is a fantastic opportunity for me, and I am looking forward to joining Team Liv-Plantur," said Labous who is the French national junior road race and time trial champion. "The team is associated with a vision of developing riders and it is great to see that teamwork is at the core of this vision. The team does not only focus on one leader but focuses on nurturing and supporting young riders, which were important factors in making my decision."
Labous won two stages on the way overall Albstadt-Frauen-Etappenrennen success and recently finished 11th Tour de Bretagne Feminin with her 2016 performances catching the eye of coach Hans Timmermans.
"Juliette is still very young and is one of the biggest talents in the world. I think she has everything that requires to become a world class rider in the future. Physically she is extremely talented but also mentally she is very focused and knows what she wants to achieve," Timmermans said. "At the last training camps where she joined our team we saw how willing she is to learn from our staff and other riders. After this training camp and participating in our German Talent Days she won the Nations cup race in Albstadt, which can be seen as the hardest races of all. We want to further develop Juliette’s talents within our structure of expertise and we'll take a long-term approach. The upcoming two seasons are essential to allow her to develop instead of expecting results."
Soek, 25, is into her third season with the team and extends her contract to the end of 2017. Weaver, 22, also remains with the team where she will continue to develop as a rider as Timmermans explained.
"Molly is an example of how our philosophy works. She is making steady progress and is becoming a core rider within our team. During her home race at the Aviva Tour of Britain, she made her mark and introduced herself to the elite level of cycling," he said.