Australia's Michael Matthews (Sunweb) stole the show at the Grands Prix Cyclistes de Quebec and Montreal as the first rider to win the back-to-back Canadian WorldTour races since his compatriot Simon Gerrans back in 2014.
"I just didn't want to let it slide away - to get this double - I was risking a little bit by staying up close to the front but it paid off," said Matthews after sealing his second victory of the weekend on the Avenue du Pac in Montreal on Sunday.
"I might have used too much energy staying at the front all day but I really wanted to win today, and I knew that I had to do everything possible to go for the win."
Matthews went into the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal as the overwhelming favourite, mostly because of the way he dominated the uphill sprint along the Grande Allée to win in Quebec City on Friday, ahead of Olympic road race champion Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo).
In Montreal, he relied on his Sunweb team to bring back the day's breakaway of Owain Doull (Team Sky), Hugo Houle (Team Astana), Nigel Ellsay (Rally Cycling), Adam Roberge (Canada) and Charles-Etienne Chretien (Canada).
With the breakaway in sight, attacks came from previous winner Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) along with Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and James Knox (Team Sky), and Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida), but Sunweb were able to fight back despite blow after blow.
Even a slight miscalculation through the final U-turn with 500 metres to go didn't stop Matthews from claiming success as he stormed passed Bahrain-Merida's Sonny Colbrelli to take the victory.
"It was a super hard day out there, and my team did an awesome job to keep all the breakaway together and give me an opportunity to sprint," Matthews said. "I only just got this guy [Sonny Colbrelli] on the line, and I'm super happy to win."
Matthews was also a fan-favourite as the crowds roared upon seeing him take his second win. In a post-race interview from the podium, he expressed how meaningful it was to win in both Quebec and Montreal, acknowledging the success that his former teammate Gerrans had during the races four years ago.
"I still can't believe it myself, to be honest," Matthews said of his double success. "I saw my good friend Simon Gerrans do this double a few years ago, and it's nice to be the second Aussie to do it.
"When I saw Simon do this in 2014, I was at the Vuelta, and it was something special for cycling in Australia to see an Aussie do both these races in a row. It has been a massive goal for me to try and achieve that.
"Simon has had so many amazing results, and he is someone that I look up to, and for him to be here, in the race today, witnessing me also doing what he was able to do in 2014, I think it is really special."
Gerrans confirmed in August that he would retire at the end of the 2018 season and spend time with his family before deciding what he will do next. He won 33 races during his 15-year career including Milan-San Remo (2012), Liège-Bastogne-Liège (2014) and four editions of the Tour Down Under (2006, 2012, 2014, 2016).
In addition to the Grands Prix Cyclistes de Québec and Montréal, he won two stages at the Tour de France and the Australian national championships, all in 2014.
Gerrans' participation at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal marked the final WorldTour race of his career. Although Gerrans chose not to speak with the press, Matthews said it meant a lot to race together one last time.
"He said it was his last WorldTour race today and it's sad that he won't be in the peloton next year," Matthews said. "It was nice to be able to win both races, while he was still here to see it."
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