Benoît Cosnefroy's frustration was obvious. After attacking alone on the final lap of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal on Sunday, the AG2R La Mondiale rider thought he had picked up the perfect ally when fellow Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) bridged across over the top of the Boulevard du Mont-Royal with three kilometres remaining.
At first, their collaboration was as smooth as the turbulence of the circumstances allowed, but by the time they reached the 180-degree turn with 500 metres to go, it was apparent that Alaphilippe was content to force his younger compatriot to lead out the uphill sprint. Cosnefroy's entreaties for help against the gradient and the headwind were rebuffed by Alaphilippe, and he responded by banging his handlebars in annoyance.
With the Jack Haig-led chasing group almost upon them, Alaphilippe finally came through, but by the time he and Cosnefroy opened their efforts in earnest, the chance had already slipped through their fingers. Greg Van Avermaet (CCC) shot past to claim victory, while Alaphilippe and Cosnefroy had to settle for 13th and 17th, respectively.
In the finishing straight, as Van Avermaet was being led towards the podium, Alaphilippe sought out Cosnefroy for an explanation, if not necessarily an apology, and the pair shook hands.
"I wanted Julian to take more turns, but he was à fond – flat out. That's what he told me at the finish," Cosnefroy told reporters. "I'm disappointed. It would have been nice to have had a French one-two here in Montreal with Julian. It would have been beautiful to be on the podium with him. Even though we're not on the same team, we're both French, and I've known Julian for a long time."
Tenth at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec on Friday, Cosnefroy offered a further indication of his late-season form with a canny attack in the finale here, sensing a lull atop the Côte de Camillien-Houde after attacks from his teammate Nans Peters and EF Education First's Michael Woods had come to naught.
As the course circled the Parc du Mont-Royal, the green heart of Montreal, and then tackled the Côte de Polytechnique, Cosnefroy maintained an advantage of 10 seconds or so over an elite group of chasers. Alaphilippe forged across just as his buffer was beginning to dwindle, and the two Frenchman led into the finishing straight after Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) had attempted to peg them back.
"I wanted Julian to come through. I know that he's stronger than me, and I was hoping he'd do a long turn," Cosnefroy said. "He was going for the win, and we might both have stayed away. Unfortunately, he was flat out and he couldn't take any more turns, and then I didn't want to do any more, either, because I was going for the win, too. I attacked in the finale to try to win, but voilà, I've ended up 25th or 30th, or whatever it is [17th – ed.], so I was disappointed at the finish."
The under-23 world champion in Bergen two years ago, Cosnefroy has been enjoying a fine sophomore season in the professional peloton, picking up wins at Paris-Camembert, the Grand Prix de Plumelec-Morbihan and the Polynormande, as well as a stage and the overall at the Tour du Limousin.
"It was a pity I didn't go to the finish; I haven't won in the WorldTour yet," the Norman said. "I'm happy with how I rode today, but my first feeling on crossing the line was disappointment not to have stayed away.
"I wanted to be in contention at the finish today, and that's what I did. I like races on circuits like this."
Cosnefroy and Alaphilippe may yet find themselves pulling in the same direction on a circuit race before the month is out. French coach Thomas Voeckler has already named seven of his eight-man team for the World Championships road race in Yorkshire on September 29, but, on this form, Cosnefroy is surely in contention for the last seat on the plane.