While Robert Gesink (Belkin) may have felt a bit down on his luck this season after disappointing showings at the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France, the 27-year-old Dutchman would experience no ill effects of Friday the 13th as he sprinted to his first victory in over a year at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec.
Not only did Gesink's victory complete a career podium progression at the one-day Canadian WorldTour event (he finished 3rd in 2010 and 2nd in 2011), but he made history as the first rider to win both WorldTour events in Canada having already won the inaugural Montreal edition in 2010.
And by winning a tough uphill sprint in the finale of a taxing 201.6km event on the circuit in Old Québec, Gesink has also shown he's on good form for the road world championships in Italy in just over two weeks' time.
While much attention has been garnered by Peter Sagan's build-up to the world championships in North America rather than the traditional Vuelta a España route, Gesink, too, has undertaken a similar program, albeit he didn't really have much choice.
"I already did the Giro and Tour so three Grand Tours would be too much," said Gesink. "In the past I think the Vuelta was the best preparation but now if you do it the way I did, it is also a really good preparation for the Worlds."
Soon after Gesink wrapped up his Tour de France campaign, where he placed 26th overall, and then the Clasica San Sebastian, the Dutchman hopped on a plane to California accompanied by his girlfriend Daisy and 21-month-old daughter Anne to re-charge his batteries.
"The first of August I flew out to Los Angeles," Gesink told Cyclingnews. "It was directly after the Tour and I had a holiday. I went by car from LA to Boulder, Colorado and looked at a lot of the National Parks along the way - but did a lot of it by bike. I enjoyed it.
"Then I stayed a bit more than two weeks in Boulder for a high altitude training camp and then did the Tour of Alberta afterwards."
Gesink's stint in Boulder coincided with Colorado's USA Pro Challenge, so many Boulder-based pros were competing and unable to act as training partners.
"Most of the guys who live there were doing the race so I did a lot of hours by myself. But I've been there before, I knew the area and knew it was really nice. I had a great time staying there in an apartment with my girlfriend and daughter."
The inaugural Tour of Alberta provided a nice opportunity to transition back to racing prior to Québec and Montreal.
"It was a really good race and really good preparation," said Gesink, who placed fifth on general classification. "Already I knew my form was pretty good there. I got fifth in the stage with the crosswinds which is pretty special for a guy who's not really a specialist on flat roads."
Additionally, Gesink is not the first rider one would expect to win a 10-man sprint against the likes of Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), but the Dutchman played his cards right and arrived at the uphill finish with fresher legs than the more renowned fast finishers.
"We didn't take the initiative like BMC did today but had a different tactic. Nine out of ten times on a course like this it comes down to the last lap.
“Guys like [Peter] Sagan and Greg [Van Avermaet] are normally much faster than I am, but it was a really tough race and everybody was really tired. 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."
As an added bonus Gesink's girlfriend and daughter were the first to greet him after he coasted to a stop after his victory. When Gesink won the 2010 Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal his girlfriend had already left for home having accompanied him on his pre-race training camp in America. "She regretted that so much," said Gesink. "This time she stayed and I'm glad she did."
Canada has been good to Gesink in recent years, and points to a potential good result at Worlds.
"It's something special here," said Gesink. "I've been third, second and now first here and in Montreal that was my first big victory.
"The win is really good for my confidence that all the hard work you've put in has paid off. The Worlds are a goal for me and the parcours is similar to here, with a circuit in a city. It's good training and good preparation."
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