Belgium National Champion Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) was the odds-on race favourite to win the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec and that is exactly what he did. The victory came with a cherry on top, enough points to move him into the lead of the International Cycling Union (UCI) world ranking ahead of Tour de France winner Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).
“I was under pressure because I had to get six points and they were six difficult points to try and get,” Gilbert said. “As the race went on and the scenario evolved things got better and better for me because the peloton got smaller and there were only 10 of us at the end.”
Gilbert made several strong attacks during the final two laps of the 16-lap, 201.6km race. A group of 10 riders emerged that included rival Robert Gesink (Rabobank) along with Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack), Rigoberto Uran (Sky Pro Cycling), Fabian Wegmann (Leopard Trek), Simone Ponzi (Liquigas-Cannondale), Simon Clarke (Astana), Gerald Ciolek (Quick Step) and Bjorn Leukemans and Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM).
Gilbert made his winning move over the final short ascent with roughly two kilometres to go. Gesink followed by roughly five seconds and tried to close the gap but was unsuccessful, leaving Gilbert with the race victory. “I knew that with the 10 riders in the end I could finish fourth or fifth and get those points secured,” Gilbert said. “In that sense I could relax and concentrate on victory because I knew that with only the 10 guys at the end I had already met my goal of getting those six points.”
He started the race placed second in the UCI world ranking due to victories at the Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Amstel Gold, La Fleche Wallone, Clasica de San Sebastian, Strade Bianche, Brabantse Pijl, along with Tour of Belgium, Ster ZLM Toer and stages of the Tirreno-Adriatico, Volta ao Algarve and Tour de France. He aspired to pick up additional UCI points in order to move into the top spot in the world ranking at the Canadian WorldTour races. However, he noted the lack of team support heading into the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec and Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal.
“I can’t compare this race [win] to any other classic that I won this year because I had a weak team and I had to ride on my own,” Gilbert said. “I was stressed about it and I almost had to ride on my own for the whole day. If I started to ride a little earlier, like Ryder Hesjedal did, well you saw that he was not in the finale anymore. It was impossible to take the whole race on my shoulders and it was stressful not to have a team.”
Gilbert admitted that the pressure to perform well at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal on Sunday has diminished slightly now that he has accomplished his world ranking goals. “We flew a long way to come over here and I will do Montreal,” Gilbert said. “But, I have no pressure now and everything that comes now is just a bonus. For me to get the win here and get the points is mission accomplished.”