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Pogacar beats Van Aert in breakaway sprint to win Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) stormed to the victory at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal. The two-time Tour de France champion outpowered a five-man breakaway to beat Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Andrea Bagioli (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) on the famed Avenue du Parc.

"It was not just the sprint, but the whole race was hard, and the team worked super good. It was perfect," Pogačar said.

"In the end, it was difficult because we know that Wout is one of the best sprinters in the world, but this is a tough finish. I believed in myself, gave it everything, and I succeeded."

Pogačar, Van Aert and Bagioli formed part of a late-race five-rider breakaway over the final ascent of the circuit's main climb Côte Camillien-Houde. 

Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) ignited the move with a searing attack that only Pogačar could follow at first. The pair were then joined by David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Van Aert and Bagioli along the descent of the Chemin Remembrance.

Yates then led the group along the slopes of the second ascent, Côte de la Polytechnique, and Van Aert pulled through on the descents with help from Bagioli, Pogačar and Gaudu. 

Working together, the five men gained 30 seconds inside 5km as teams that missed the move never got organised enough to form an effective chase.

Yates attacked again over the third climb, Pagnuelo, which was the last place to try to gain time on his rivals, but it was only 500m, and he couldn't open a gap.

Gaudu counter-attacked, and Van Aert responded with 2.5km to go as the Belgian pulled the group along the descent and back onto the Avenue du Parc.

They still had 35 seconds in hand as Van Aert led them under the flamme rouge and into the final U-turn, taking it wide out of the bend. Gaudu started his sprint, catching the other four off guard and forcing Pogačar to chase. 

The Slovenian used his powerful sprint along the uphill finish to catch and pass Gaudu and take the win ahead of Van Aert with Bagioli in third, Yates in fourth and Gaudu in fifth.

How it unfolded

The peloton lined up along the Avenue du Parc at the base of Montreal's monumental climb, Mont-Royal, and completed 18 laps of a 12.3km circuit for a total of 221.4km of racing through the downtown streets that included sites of the 1976 Montreal Olympic Park.

The route included three climbs: Côte Camillien-Houde at 1.8km at a gradient of 8%, which was the location of the mountain points on offer each lap, Côte de la Polytechnique at 780m with a gradient of 6% but which also included a short but steep section at 11%, and Pagnuelo with 535m at 7%. 

The race then dropped down to the Avenue du Parc, where the field negotiated a U-turn positioned roughly 500 metres into the uphill finish. Those final 500 metres climbed gradually at 4% to the line.

Attacks from the gun meant that separations were created over the top of the Côte Camillien-Houde with a group of six forming that included Théo Delacroix (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Antoine Duchesne (Groupama-FDJ), Eddy Finé (Cofidis), Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Soudal), Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM) and Antonio Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan).

The six riders slowly pushed their lead out, and by the end of the fifth lap, they had more than five minutes in hand as teams Ineos Grenadiers, AG2R Citroën and Jumbo-Visma led the main field.

It was bad luck for Finé, who first suffered a mechanical and later a crash. Despite a chase attempt, he could not reconnect with his companions in the breakaway.  

Duchesne was the first of the breakaway riders to show signs of fatigue. He fell off pace several times over the circuit climbs and was distanced completely with about 55km left in the race.

The breakaway was reduced to three; Delacroix, Leknessund and Vermeersch carried on with a gap of 2:40 as UAE Team Emirates took up the reins at the front of the main field.

On the Côte Camillien-Houde on lap 15, and with 48km to go, Leknessund put pressure on Delacroix and Vermeersch, opening a small gap on his rivals. The field led by UAE Team Emirates swallowed the pair of chasers as Leknessund held a slight lead over the Côte Camillien-Houde on lap 16 with 30km to go.

Christophe Laporte and Jumbo-Visma brought the gap down further and placed Van Aert in a good position to better his fourth place in Quebec.

As Laporte pulled off the front, having done his work for the day, Jumbo-Visma and EF Education-EasyPost came through, closing down the last few seconds to Leknessund.

The peloton back together with two laps to go, Jumbo-Visma set the pace over the Côte Camillien-Houde with all the major contenders near the front; Van Aert, Pogačar, Gaudu all marked one another ahead of the final.

The field stretched out down the Chemin Remembrance, but an attack from Simone Velasco (Astana Qazaqstan) disrupted their efforts to keep the field together. 

Frederik Wandahl (Bora Hansgrohe) joined Valesco, and the pair hit out at the bottom of the Côte de la Polytechnique. A slim six seconds bloomed to 40 seconds on the Pagnuelo, down Ch. Ste-Catherine and onto the Avenue du Parc for the start of the final lap.

The two escapees could see the chasing peloton along the Avenue du Parc as the two groups crossed opposite directions on the other side of the U-Turn.

Their efforts didn't last long. On the last ascent of the Côte Camillien-Houde, Dani Martinez (Ineos Grenadiers) jumped out of the field and caught the pair. However, he too was passed by the winning move that included Pogačar, Van Aert, Yates, Gaudu and Bagioli.

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