Robert Gesink (Rabobank) is confident in his ability to secure a victory this weekend at one of the two Canadian WorldTour events; Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec City on September 9 and Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal on September 11. The Dutch climber is known for his strong late-season form, however, he is unsure if that will be enough to top race favourite Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto).
"Last year, this was one of the best weeks of my career over here," Gesink told Cyclingnews. "I was third in Quebec and won in Montreal, because of that, it is nice to be back here. My results from last year set the stage pretty high for this year. I would really like to race as well as last year. I am motivated to do some good racing here and I'm in good shape after being in Colorado."
Gesink began two weeks of altitude training at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge followed by a one week stay in Boulder, Colorado. Although the seven-day race did not go as well as he had expected, he was pleased with a top 20 overall performance and his climbing during the mountain stages in light of the difficulty adjusting to the thin air.
"I think Colorado was good for me, and a lot of riders, a perfect build up for these races and the end of the season," Gesink said. "It was really difficult out there with the high altitude and I was suffering a lot. It was a good race for me, aside from a bad time trial, I did a good race and feel good for these next two races."
Gesink placed third in the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec City last year, behind winner Thomas Voeckler (BBox Bouygeus Telekom) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky Pro Cycling). He went on to secure a solo victory at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal two days later ahead of Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Cervelo).
"The climb is longer in Montreal and so that course really suits me better," Gesink compared the two circuits. "The climb on the Quebec course is really steep and short, but the race is heavy because of the number of times we have to ride it, so normally that distance is good for me."
Belgium National Champion Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) is the odds-on race favourite for both events, and a rider well suited to the classic-style circuits that include technical sections and challenging ascents on each lap. He is currently placed second in the International Cycling Union (UCI) world ranking due to victories at the
Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Amstel Gold, La Fleche Wallone, Clasica de San Sebastian, Strade Bianche, Brabantse Pijl, along with Tour of Belgium, Ster ZLM Toer and stages of the Tirreno-Adriatico, Volta ao Algarve and Tour de France. He is no doubt aspiring to pick up additional UCI points that could potentially move him into the top spot in the world ranking.
"This year there is a different peloton. Of course there is Gilbert who is winning every race he starts," Gesink said. "He is the favourite for sure. He is also a French speaking rider and the stakes are really high for him at these races. He has a strong team, the trust of his team, and they will try and take control. There are other riders like Ryder Hesjedal who is from here. We will watch Gilbert and do our own race and try and ride as well as last year."
Gesink had some top performances this year with an overall victory at the Tour of Oman and a second place overall at the Tirreno-Adriatico. He will end his season at the UCI World Championships, Giro dell'Emilia, a race he won last year, and the Giro di Lombardia.
"I had a really good start of the season and food form at the start of the Tour de France," Gesink said. "Unfortunately I had a bad development of the Tour with a crash. I tried to be good for the whole season, all the way to the finish. Last year, winning in Montreal and then winning in Emilia was one of the best ends to my season, so this is a very important part of my season. I am usually pretty good in the end of the season, so I will try to win something at the end of this season, too."