Montréal's Mont Royal gives puncheurs a second chance

Race promoter Serge Arsenault has again brought the top professional cyclists in the world to the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal, where the fifth edition will be held on Sunday, September 14. Defending champion Peter Sagan (Cannondale) will be absent from the start line, as he was committed to competing at the Vuelta a España, however, the race will showcase its 2011 winner and current world champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida).

None of the podium finishers from last year’s event, Simone Ponzi or Canada’s own Ryder Hesjedal, are competing but fourth-placed Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) will want to improve on his performance this year. The Belgian rider had a strong performance at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec on Friday, where he placed fifth behind winner Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge), Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano), Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) and Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge), who are all candidates for the podium in Montreal as well.

Some of the other notable contenders, if the race comes down to a larger group and perhaps a sprint, are Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) who has had a strong season with wins at Milan-San Remo, a stage at the Tour of Norway along with two stage wins at the Tour de France. He is in top one-day race form as well, having recently won Vattenfall Cyclassics and he will be leading Norway at the World Championships at the end of the month.

Other fast men in the mix will be Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky), who took a second place in the 2010 edition on the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec, and Bryan Coquard (Team Europcar) who had several near-podium finishes at the Tour de France this year.
Opportunistic riders who will no doubt try to run away with the race in a breakaway or along the difficult uphill drag to the finish line are Lampre-Merida teammates Chris Horner and Costa, who will be the first rider to wear the rainbow jersey in this event.

Strongmen not to be underestimated on the challenging course are Bauke Mollema (Belkin), Tony Gallopin (Lotto Belisol), who won a stage at the Tour de France and wore the yellow jersey for a day, Blel Kadri (Ag2r-La Mondiale), who also won a stage of the Tour, and Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo), who won two stages at the Giro d'Italia and a stage at the Tour. The French-speaking crowds will want to see a show from France's Ag2r-La Mondiale teammates Jean-Christophe Peraud and Romain Bardet, who placed second and sixth overall at the Tour.

American rider Tejay van Garderen (BMC) is also in the running for a top results after placing fifth at the Tour de France and more recently winning the USA Pro Cycling, and Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp), who showed top form after winning the Tour of Utah.

World cyclo-cross champion Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) was back to racing at the Brussels Cycling Classic after taking time off to recover from a crash at the Eneco Tour in August, and he will likely want to capture a strong result near the end of the road season.

The Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal's 205.7km race is held on challenging circuit previously used as a World Championships course in 1974, Olympic Games route in 1976, a men's World Cup course in the 1980s and 1990s, and a women's World Cup course in the 1990s and 2000s.

The peloton will face 17 laps of a 12.1km loop that starts along the Avenue du Parc and begins the circuit's significant ascent up Mont Royal. The peloton will descend the Chemin Remembrance and the Cote des Neiges before beginning a technical battle through the downtown streets surrounding the Université de Montréal. Riders will continue the descent down the Cote Ste-Catherines back onto Avenue du Parc, and make the final U-turn with 400 meters to go before sprinting to the finish line.

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