Peter Sagan will be back in action at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec and Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal on Friday and Sunday as he chases points to defend his lead in the world rankings and searches for fitness ahead of the defence of his rainbow jersey in Qatar in October.
Sagan started the Bretagne Classic but quickly quit the French race due to illness, leaving him short of road racing since focusing on the mountain bike event at the Rio Olympics. He still leads the official UCI world rankings thanks to his successful spring and Tour de France but Chris Froome (Team Sky) is second in the standings and is on track to score points at the Vuelta a Espana.
Sagan will have a strong Tinkoff team to back him in the two Canadian races. Also travelling to North America on Tuesday are Rafal Majka, Roman Kreuziger, Michael Valgren, Oscar Gatto, Michael Kolar, Evgeny Petrov and Maciej Bodnar.
"After a short period of rest following Plouay I resumed training on Saturday and I'm looking forward to racing in Canada. I have good memories of these races having won in Montréal in 2013. We have a strong team for these races and if it is not me at the front at the end then I know that the other guys are also capable of getting a result here," Sagan said.
Sagan beat Simone Ponzi and Ryder Hesjedal in the 2013 Montreal race, using his power and speed on the uphill finish in the centre of the city.
"Both have tough parcours and I'm quite suited to both. I hope that I will have recovered enough in time to be able to challenge again here. There are not many WorldTour races left to score points in so I would like to continue picking up points here and see how the standings are after the Vuelta."
Two hilly circuit races
The Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec takes place on Friday, covering a 12.6km city centre circuit that features 186m of climbing on each of the 16 laps. The rolling circuit features two small classified climbs as well a long drag to the finish line. On Saturday the riders travel by train to nearby Montreal for the second race. The Gran Prix Cycliste de Montréal consists of 17 laps of a 12.1km circuit but with more climbing than in Quebec and in the past. Each lap will see 229m of altitude gain, resulting in a significant gain of 3893m by the end of the race.
Tinkoff directeur sportif Patxi Vila was cautious about Sagan's chances but knows that he needs to score ranking points.
"In terms of our plan of attack, we have to see how Peter is, and how he has recovered as he wasn't feeling great in Plouay. However, he's back training and he should be okay," he said.
"Alongside Peter, we have a strong roster and the aim, like in Plouay, is to have Peter at his best level, to score points for the WorldTour, and to go for the win. We can also play the card of Rafal or Roman, and Michael too. They are looking strong and suited to the two different parcours. Comparing the two, I think Montréal suits Peter a bit better, but we will see how the races develop.
"Like I said before Plouay, we're coming towards the end of the season so motivation levels vary within the peloton, sometimes making for slightly different racing, but the guys are up for these two races here. Bodnar and a few others are coming to Canada with a few weeks since their last race so they're keen to get going again. I think we can target some nice results here in Canada."