The Netherlands' Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Canada's Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) placed third and fourth, respectively at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec City on Friday and each is looking to improve upon their performance at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal on Sunday. The second ProTour event offers a longer and more challenging ascent that should better suit the pair of climbers.
"I think I was fine in Quebec City and if Sunday's course suits me better, than that is more motivating," said Hesjedal. "I was confident coming out here on Wednesday, it's bike racing and things have to come together. We are out there for a long time, and you have to get through the racing to get to the hard moments in the final. I was happy to be able to get to those moments in Quebec City, and I hope to do that again on Sunday. I will get some good rest from now until then."
Hesjedal, who placed seventh at the this year's Tour de France, forced a late-race breakaway on the challenging Cote de la Montagne at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec City on Friday. The crowds roared as he rode through the start-finish line with one lap to go, driving a breakaway that included Fabian Wagmann (Team Milram), Matti Breshcel, Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Farnese Vini) and Dries Devenyns (Quick Step).
They five men were reabsorbed into a small chase group on the final climb when French national champion, Thomas Voeckler (BBox Bouygues Telecom) counter attacked in a solo victory to the finish line. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) sprinted ahead of the small group for second place ahead of Gesink in third and Hesjedal in fourth.
"It was a typical moment of hesitation from the other riders and at that moment I was already on the limit from the what it took for me to get to that moment," Hesjedal said. "The last thing I was going to do was try and go again. He [Voeckler] took a great move and took advantage of that. It was hard to watch him ride away but there wasn't much I could do about it at that point."
"I came here to get on the podium and maybe the top step, and I came close," he said. "I wanted to make the race, make it hard and give myself an opportunity. I'm happy the crowds were amazing and it was a great day. From that point of view, I was really happy. I plan on having a nice race in Montreal."
On Sunday, some 180 ProTour riders will line up at the base of the daunting Mont Royal, site of the 1974 World Championships and 1976 Olympic Road Race. The race starts on the bustling Avenue du Parc and is routed up a more than three-kilometre ascent to the top of the city's famed mountain. The circuit is 12.6km, and the men will contest 15 laps for a total of 189 kms.
"Normally the course in Montreal should suit me better than a parcours like Quebec City because that had shorter climbs and normally I am better on the longer climbs. Hopefully I can do really good in Montreal," Gesink said. "Ryder Hesjedal showed that he is in really good shape. When he attacked on the small climbs in Quebec he was a lot stronger and not many could follow. I think he will be the big favorite, of course. I'm happy to be feeling this good and to have been able to stand on the podium in Quebec City."
President of the International Cycling Union (UCI) Pat McQuaid acknowledged that the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec City venue could be the site of the World Championships in 2015. After competing at the ProTour race on Friday, Gesink believes it would make a suitable worlds course.
"In Europe, normally the one-day races are not with laps. It is usually a race through the countryside," Gesink said. "These courses are more or less like a world championships course, with less laps. Quebec City was really a good parcours for a world championships, and I think that they have a good chance to get the Worlds in a few years because it was a good atmosphere and a nice course to ride."