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Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec and Montreal attract Tour de France contenders

By:
Kirsten Frattini

Canadian contingent aiming high on home roads

Thomas Voeckler (BBox-Bouygues Telecom) wins the GP Quebec

Thomas Voeckler (BBox-Bouygues Telecom) wins the GP Quebec

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Groupe Serdy, a Canadian production and event management company, has once again brought a world-class peloton to the province of Quebec for the 2nd annual UCI WorldTour events at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec City on September 9 and the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal on September 11. Race organizers invited 18 WorldTour and four Professional Continental teams, and among them are some of the most well-known cyclists racing on the professional circuit.

"The peloton for the Quebec City and Montreal Grands Prix Cyclistes is of a very high level indeed," said Charly Mottet, the event's sports manager. "We have riders who shone this summer in the Tour de France, along with many who have what it takes to triumph on two courses that are different but highly selective. The cyclists now know that we have a serious organization here, and you can tell they feel a strong incentive to outdo themselves in Quebec City and Montreal."

Race promoter Serge Arsenault is doing his part to help the UCI in its quest to globalize professional cycling by bringing the first two WorldTour events to North America. The 18 WorldTour teams in attendance included AG2R La Mondiale, Astana, BMC Racing, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Garmin-Cervelo, Katusha, Lampre-ISD, Leopard-Trek, Liquigas-Cannondale, Movistar, Omega Pharma-Lotto, Quick Step, Rabobank, RadioShack, Saxo Bank Sunguard, Sky Pro Cycling, HTC-Highroad and Vacansoleil-DCM. The four wild card Professional Continental teams include Cofidis, FDJ, Europcar and SpiderTech p/b C10.

Two historical parcours in Quebec City and Montreal

On September 9, the Grande Prix Cycliste de Quebec City's 201.6km event will begin in the downtown core on Saint-Louis, held on 16 laps of a 12.6km circuit. The peloton will descend through the Park Des Champs-De-Bataille, race along the Boulevard Champlain beside the Saint Lawrence River before starting the steep ascent up the Cote de la Montagne. The riders will contest a short but technical circuit through narrow and undulating streets of the old city before returning back onto Saint Louis for a shallow grade uphill to the finish line. The course was once used as the Canadian National Championships and is currently a stage of the UCI 2.2 Tour de Beauce.

Thomas Voeckler won the inaugural Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec City while racing under the BBoxBouygues Telecom banner last year but he will not be present this year to defend his victory. He made a last-ditch attack with one kilometre to go and held off the field sprint to take the victory ahead of Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky), Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Canadian Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin).

On September 11, the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal's 205.7km race will take place two days later on another challenging circuit previously used as a World Championships course in 1974, Olympic Games route in 1976, a men's World Cup course in the 1980s and 1990s, and a women's World Cup course in the 1990s and 2000s.

The peloton will face 17 laps of a 12.1km loop which starts along the Avenue du Parc and begins the circuit's significant ascent up Mont Royal. The peloton will descend the Chemin Remembrance and the Cote des Neiges before beginning a technical battle through the downtown streets surrounding the Universite de Montreal. Riders will continue the descent down the Cote Ste-Catherines back onto Avenue du Parc.

Gesink won the inaugural Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal after narrowly soloing to the finish line ahead of runner up Peter Sagan (Liquigas), who will not be present this year, and third placed contender Hesjedal, who will no doubt want to put forth a winning performance in either of the two events. Gesink noted his goal of defending his title in Montreal. He and his teammate Laurens Ten Dam are in good form after recently competing at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado.

"I think Colorado was a good preparation for the races in Canada," Ten Dam said. "I would like to do well there and score some points. They are a goal for me. Being 10 days at altitude is good and I will go home before coming back to Canada. I hope to have some good races there. I hope to do a good result there or help Robert do a good result."

The Tour de France contenders and the Canadians

Tour de France top 10 contenders who will be present include 6th place Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskad), 9th place Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervelo) and 10th place Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R-La Mondiale).

Runner-up at the Tour, Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) was scheduled to line up, however, a wisdom tooth ache forced him to pull out of the race one week prior to races' scheduled starts.

A handful of potential winners also include Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing) and Fabian Wegmann (Leopard Trek), who put forth top ten rides during the previous year and Classics specialist and Tour de France stage winner Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto).

Recent USA Pro Cycling Challenge overall winner Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) will take the starting line along with runner-up in the overall Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervelo), third placed Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) and stage winner George Hincapie (BMC Racing).

Also in the mix are Gesink's teammate Ten Dam, Gerald Ciolek (Quick Step) and Danilo Di Luca (Katusha). Some of the top Canadians in the race include Michael Barry (Sky Pro Cycling), who was unable to participate in the inaugural events last year due to injury, David Veilleux (Europcar) and Dominique Rollin (FDJ).

"This is one of the reasons I came back to road racing several years ago," said Steve Bauer, manager of Canada's sole UCI Professional Continental team SpiderTech p/b C10. "The depth of talent in Canada led by our top pros Ryder, Dominique, Michael makes the game very interesting. We still have not managed to put them all on one team."

SpiderTech p/b C10's preliminary published roster includes recent winner at the GP Stad Zottegem and Canadian National Champion Svein Tuft, who has signed with new WorldTour team GreenEdge for next season, along with Will Routely, Ryan Anderson, Zach Bell, Martin Gilbert, Francois Parisien, Ryan Roth, Bruno Langlois and Americans Pat McCarty and Lucas Euser. The team was not eligible to compete during the inaugural year because it was licensed as a Continental level team, and many of its riders instead competed under the Canadian National Team.

"These WorldTour races are vitally important to our team mission and the growth of Canadian road cycling," Bauer said. "In essence the races are historic for Canadian road cycling as this is the first time in history a Canadian professional road cycling team competes on the WorldTour. That says a lot about how hard we have worked to get there."

Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec details

Distance: 201.6km

Climbing Altitude: 2976m (186m on each lap)

Description: Hilly one day classic

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Image ©: Groupe Serdy