Belkin's Robert Gesink claimed a hard-fought victory in the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec, out-sprinting French champion Arthur Vichot (FDJ) and BMC's Greg Van Avermaet from an elite selection of riders that emerged in the closing kilometres of the taxing Canadian WorldTour event.
Pre-race favourite Peter Sagan (Cannondale) used his bullets to chase down a late escape from Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and while the Slovakian champion was still in position to sprint for the win he sat up just prior to the line and rolled in for 10th.
Gesink's well-timed effort for the victory was his second success in the Canadian WorldTour races, after his 2010 win in Montréal, and his fourth podium appearance in the races. The 27-year-old Dutchman became the first rider to win in both Québec and Montréal and today's victory completed a Québec podium progression having finished third in the inaugural 2010 edition followed by a runner-up finish in 2011.
The win was Gesink's first since he took the overall victory at the 2012 Tour of California.
"I'm really happy since my season so far has been really tough for me," Gesink said. "It tried to do good in the Giro and I got sick then worked hard in the Tour but still didn't win any races.
"I worked hard the last few months to be good here and it's really nice [to take my first win of the season]."
What was most remarkable about the victory was that Gesink prevailed over a sprinter like Sagan, who has been nearly untouchable in finishes like this throughout the year, as well as Van Avermaet, who has been on the podium of 12 races this season.
"Guys like Sagan and Greg are normally much faster than I am, but it was a really tough race and everybody was really tired," Gesink explained. "With 16 laps you have to wait and wait to be fresh as possible in the end. The uphill sprint suits me, too, and it all came together today. It was pretty hard, but I'm still a bit surprised."
Van Avermaet, runner-up in Québec the year prior to Simon Gerrans, once again made the podium and continued his lengthy stint of podium results at North American races dating back to the Tour of Utah more than a month ago. The Belgian has now placed either second or third in six races following a victory in the first stage in Utah on August 6.
Van Avermaet, too, burned some matches along with Sagan in chasing down Terpstra a few kilometres from the finale.
"This year I was feeling pretty good again," said Van Avermaet. "In the sprint I marked Peter Sagan but I think he was a little tired. Gesink was good inside the last kilometre and the strongest guy won the race."
The fourth edition of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec was once again contested on 16 laps of a 12.6km circuit in historic Old Québec totalling 201.6km. With the start/finish line on the Grande Allée thoroughfare the peloton partakes of a counter-clockwise loop, first descending through the Park Des Champs-De-Bataille. The riders turn left onto the Boulevard Champlain along the Saint Lawrence River before starting the steep ascent up the Cote de la Montagne (10% average gradient with its most severe pitch at 13%). The peloton then negotiates the narrow and undulating streets of the old city, including the KOM climb of the Cote de la Potasse 2km from the finish, before returning back onto Saint Louis for a shallow, yet leg-stinging, 4% rise to the finish line.
A flurry of attacks mid-way through the opening circuit led to a nine-man break gaining a small gap, but once the finish line was in sight the move was neutralised. In the aftermath of that opening salvo the day's early break formed soon after the beginning of lap two. The three-man move was comprised of Valerio Agnoli (Astana), Tiago Machado (RadioShack Leopard) and Peio Bilbao (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and the trio pushed out a maximum lead of 6:12 after three laps.
As the break's lead quickly grew over the second and third laps the chase was organised by Cannondale and Movistar and those two squads worked at steadily chipping away the escape's advantage. Like clockwork they carved approximately 30 seconds off the break's lead each lap.
After eight laps (110.8km) had been completed, the mid-point of the race, the lead trio's advantage had been reduced to 2:50 where it stabilised for one more lap. On lap 10 the break's gap was halved to 1:20 and at lap end the fireworks commenced at the head of the peloton.
Gloves are off
On the gentle rise through the finish line four riders jumped clear of the field - BMC teammates Tejay van Garderen, Amaël Moinard and Steve Morabito plus Spanish road champion Jesus Herrada (Movistar). As they turned left onto the Boulevard Champlain the four-man chase grew to six with the addition of Jack Bobridge (Belkin) and Eduard Vorganov (Katusha). Prior to reaching the base of the Cote de la Montagne ascent they reached the lead trio to form a new nine-man lead group.
While the original three escapees sat on the back up the Cote de la Montagne, Machado kept his KOM winning streak alive at 10 laps straight as he moved to the front on the Cote de la Potasse for top honours.
On the rise to the finish line, with the BMC trio driving the break, two of the original escapees, Agnoli and Bilbao, couldn't handle the pace and were dropped. The now seven-man group pressed onwards and held a 28-second advantage with five laps remaining.
Back onto the Boulevard Champlain along the St. Lawrence River the peloton was now led by Lampre-Merida and by the top of the Cote de la Montagne the break's lead had dropped to 15 seconds. Saxo-Tinkoff took over pace-making duties on the run-in to the KOM with Machado digging deep to win yet again and wrapping up the mountains classification for good.
Early on the 13th lap Vorganov was dropped from the break, leaving the BMC trio of van Garderen, Moinard and Morabito plus Herrada, Bobridge and Machado in the lead. Cannondale drove the pace along the St. Lawrence River and at the base of the Cote de la Montagne it was gruppo compatto as the break was reeled in after 158km of racing had transpired.
Counterattacks were immediately launched with Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) jumping away and joined by Daniel Oss (BMC) and Yoann Offredo (FDJ). An inspired Oss soloed away up the KOM but was soon joined once again by Marcato and Offredo. The peloton was breathing down their necks as they passed by the majestic Chateau Frontenac hotel at the flamme rouge and two riders were able to bridge across - Sergei Chernetckii (Katusha) and Dries Devenyns (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) - to form a five-man lead group with three laps to go.
While Cannondale and Argos-Shimano were powering the peloton two more riders reached the break - Sergey Lagutin (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Bjorn Thurau (Europcar) - with 34.5km remaining. Cannondale, believing in Peter Sagan's chances, reduced their advantage to 10 seconds along the Boulevard Champlain and just after the KOM on the Cote de la Potasse once again the peloton was together, albeit steadily shrinking in size.
Who's got the freshest legs?
As the peloton set out on their penultimate lap with 25.2km to go a five-rider break held a very tenuous gap on the field. George Bennett (RadioShack Leopard) soon dropped his companions and set out alone with Bjorn Thurau trying, unsuccessfully, to bridge the gap to the young New Zealander.
The protracted sector of flat road on the Boulevard Champlain spelled doom for Bennett and with 18km to go his escape attempt was thwarted. As the peloton made the steep ascent of the Cote de la Montagne for the 15th time Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) attacked the climb with gusto. While the Canadian's tempo surely stung the peloton's legs, nonetheless the elastic didn't snap and the field held tenuously together for the moment in one long line.
On the approach to the Cote de la Potasse it was now time for Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) to play his hand and the Dutch strongman powered away from the field and enjoyed a 25-second advantage as the bell rang for one lap to go.
Lars Petter Nordhaug (Belkin), the defending Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal champion, made a valiant solo effort to reach Terpstra, but the Norwegian was caught just inside of 10km remaining.
As the peloton reached the Boulevard Champlain for the final time their deficit to Terpstra was slowly growing, now up to 30 seconds. Several teams traded positions at the head of the peloton - Sky, Cannondale, Orica-GreenEdge and Lampre-Merida - but cat-and-mouse games had begun with no one team willing to fully commit to bringing back Terpstra.
Over the top of the Cote de la Montagne it ultimately would be race favourite Peter Sagan (Cannondale) who came to the fore. The Slovakian champion got a small gap, but backed off slightly and was soon caught. Sagan would launch another strong attack on the Cote de la Potasse and would be joined by 2012 Quebec runner-up Greg Van Avermaet (BMC). The duo had Terpstra square in their sights and at 1.5km to go Sagan and Van Avermaet made contact with the Omega Pharma-QuickStep rider.
The lead trio immediately backed off the accelerator, and inside the final kilometre their numbers grew to eight. Robert Gesink led at 800 metres remaining and was followed by the likes of Arthur Vichot (FDJ), Simon Geschke (Argos-Shimano), Rui Costa (Movistar), Fabian Wegman (Garmin-Sharp), Tom Jelte Slagter (Belkin), Matti Breschel (Saxo-Tinkoff), Terpstra, Van Avermaet and Sagan. Geschke attacked and was joined by the irrepressible Terpstra but the duo were caught with 400 metres to go
At this point, from a lead group of 10 riders, it was just a matter of who had the fresher legs with Gesink coming to the fore and powering to his first victory of the year.
|1||Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team||4:58:13|
|2||Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ.fr|
|3||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team|
|4||Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Garmin-Sharp|
|5||Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar Team|
|6||Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma-Quick Step|
|7||Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team|
|8||Matti Breschel (Den) Team Saxo-Tinkoff|
|9||Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano|
|10||Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling||0:00:06|
|11||Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||0:00:08|
|12||Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team|
|13||Laurent Pichon (Fra) FDJ.fr|
|14||Paul Martens (Ger) Belkin Pro Cycling Team|
|15||Jan Bakelants (Bel) RadioShack Leopard|
|16||Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) FDJ.fr|
|17||Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team|
|18||Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) Movistar Team|
|19||Bryan Coquard (Fra) Team Europcar|
|20||Björn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team|
|21||Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack Leopard|
|22||Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Katusha|
|23||Yoann Offredo (Fra) FDJ.fr|
|24||Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Orica-GreenEdge|
|25||Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team|
|26||Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team|
|27||Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana Pro Team|
|28||Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Belisol|
|29||Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica-GreenEdge|
|30||Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quick Step|
|31||Romain Sicard (Fra) Euskaltel-Euskadi|
|32||Jon Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||0:00:15|
|33||Miguel Minguez Ayala (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi|
|34||Simone Ponzi (Ita) Astana Pro Team||0:00:19|
|35||Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Lampre-Merida||0:00:24|
|36||Matteo Trentin (Ita) Omega Pharma-Quick Step||0:00:26|
|37||Kévin Reza (Fra) Team Europcar|
|38||Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack Leopard||0:00:35|
|39||Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp||0:00:40|
|40||Ryan Anderson (Can) Canada|
|41||Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling||0:00:42|
|42||Kristijan Durasek (Cro) Lampre-Merida|
|43||Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Belkin Pro Cycling Team|
|44||Adrian Saez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||0:00:57|
|45||Ricardo Garcia Ambroa (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi|
|46||Peter Stetina (USA) Garmin-Sharp|
|47||Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar|
|48||John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano|
|49||Björn Thurau (Ger) Team Europcar||0:01:12|
|50||Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team|
|51||Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Belisol|
|52||Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff|
|53||Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Merida|
|54||Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling|
|55||Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step|
|56||Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha|
|57||Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling|
|58||Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team|
|59||Dirk Bellemakers (Ned) Lotto Belisol|
|60||Dominique Rollin (Can) FDJ.fr|
|61||Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step|
|62||Tiago Machado (Por) RadioShack Leopard|
|63||Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (GBr) Sky Procycling|
|64||Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team|
|65||Bruno Langlois (Can) Canada|
|66||Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Orica-GreenEdge|
|67||Alexey Tsatevich (Rus) Katusha||0:01:32|
|68||Blel Kadri (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|69||Bruno Pires (Por) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||0:01:40|
|70||Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) FDJ.fr|
|71||Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi|
|72||Amaël Moinard (Fra) BMC Racing Team|
|73||Dries Devenyns (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step||0:01:56|
|74||Ryan Roth (Can) Canada||0:02:08|
|75||Rory Sutherland (Aus) Team Saxo-Tinkoff|
|76||Sergio Miguel Moreira Paulinho (Por) Team Saxo-Tinkoff|
|77||Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team||0:02:22|
|78||Kristijan Koren (Slo) Cannondale Pro Cycling|
|79||Patrick Gretsch (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano|
|80||Antoine Duchesne (Can) Canada|
|81||Marc Goos (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team|
|82||Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team|
|83||Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana Pro Team|
|84||Sergei Chernetckii (Rus) Katusha|
|85||Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team|
|86||Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|87||Thomas Damuseau (Fra) Team Argos-Shimano|
|88||Julian Kern (Ger) AG2R La Mondiale|
|89||Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-GreenEdge|
|90||Francois Parisien (Can) Team Argos-Shimano|
|91||Daniele Pietropolli (Ita) Lampre-Merida|
|92||Elia Favilli (Ita) Lampre-Merida|
|93||Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team Saxo-Tinkoff|
|94||Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Katusha||0:03:02|
|95||Jesus Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team||0:03:13|
|96||Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team||0:03:37|
|97||Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Procycling|
|98||Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge||0:03:39|
|99||Luka Mezgec (Slo) Team Argos-Shimano||0:04:14|
|100||Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre-Merida||0:04:46|
|101||Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Belisol||0:05:01|
|102||Gert Dockx (Bel) Lotto Belisol|
|103||Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling||0:05:05|
|104||Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||0:06:31|
|105||Wesley Kreder (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team|
|106||Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Team Argos-Shimano||0:10:40|
|107||George Bennett (NZl) RadioShack Leopard|
|108||William Clarke (Aus) Team Argos-Shimano|
|109||Moreno Hofland (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Ian Boswell (USA) Sky Procycling|
|DNF||Joseph Lloyd Dombrowski (USA) Sky Procycling|
|DNF||Gabriel Rasch (Nor) Sky Procycling|
|DNF||Danny Pate (USA) Sky Procycling|
|DNF||Edward King (USA) Cannondale Pro Cycling|
|DNF||Michel Koch (Ger) Cannondale Pro Cycling|
|DNF||Guillaume Boivin (Can) Cannondale Pro Cycling|
|DNF||Brian Vandborg (Den) Cannondale Pro Cycling|
|DNF||Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Sharp|
|DNF||Thomas Dekker (Ned) Garmin-Sharp|
|DNF||Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp|
|DNF||Timothy Duggan (USA) Team Saxo-Tinkoff|
|DNF||Jesus Hernandez Blazquez (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff|
|DNF||Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Movistar Team|
|DNF||Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Movistar Team|
|DNF||Eloy Teruel Rovira (Spa) Movistar Team|
|DNF||Francisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Movistar Team|
|DNF||Petr Ignatenko (Rus) Katusha|
|DNF||Rudiger Selig (Ger) Katusha|
|DNF||Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Katusha|
|DNF||Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step|
|DNF||Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step|
|DNF||Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro Team|
|DNF||Valerio Agnoli (Ita) Astana Pro Team|
|DNF||Fredrik Carl Wilhelm Kessiakoff (Swe) Astana Pro Team|
|DNF||Andy Schleck (Lux) RadioShack Leopard|
|DNF||Danilo Hondo (Ger) RadioShack Leopard|
|DNF||Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) RadioShack Leopard|
|DNF||Jack Bobridge (Aus) Belkin Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|DNF||Hugo Houle (Can) AG2R La Mondiale|
|DNF||Sébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|DNF||Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing Team|
|DNF||Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing Team|
|DNF||Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge|
|DNF||Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Orica-GreenEdge|
|DNF||Adriano Malori (Ita) Lampre-Merida|
|DNF||Jan Polanc (Slo) Lampre-Merida|
|DNF||Peio Bilbao (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi|
|DNF||Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi|
|DNF||Mickael Delage (Fra) FDJ.fr|
|DNF||Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ.fr|
|DNF||Olivier Kaisen (Bel) Lotto Belisol|
|DNF||Sander Cordeel (Bel) Lotto Belisol|
|DNF||Maarten Neyens (Bel) Lotto Belisol|
|DNF||Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Danny van Poppel (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||David Veilleux (Can) Team Europcar|
|DNF||Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Team Europcar|
|DNF||Tony Hurel (Fra) Team Europcar|
|DNF||Angelo Tulik (Fra) Team Europcar|
|DNF||Zachary Bell (Can) Canada|
|DNF||Rob Britton (Can) Canada|
|DNF||Marsh Cooper (Can) Canada|
|DNF||Nic Hamlton (Can) Canada|