Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R Citroën) captured a spectacular solo victory at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec on Friday. Inside the walls of Old Quebec City, the Frenchman held off a charging peloton to take the win by four seconds ahead of Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) and Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux).
“It was an incredible feeling to win because in cycling you don’t win often, so when you do, you have to enjoy it,” Cosnefroy said.
“I most often raise my hands in the air during training rides when we sprint for town signs. Winning in a WorldTour race and a beautiful race like the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec is amazing. I was under-23 world champion but this is even bigger for me.”
Cosnefroy attacked on the last lap, just outside of two kilometres to go over the Côte de la Potasse/des Glacis, and although it was only a slim second or two at first, he kept the pressure on his pedals and focused all his efforts over the subsequent Montée de la Fabrique and into the final kilometre along the Grande Allée.
Despite a strong chase from the field behind that was largely led by Jumbo-Visma in their effort to support Wout van Aert for the win, Cosnefroy celebrated his victory as he crossed the finish line with a handful of seconds to spare, and enough time to look back and watch the field sprint for second place.
It was a tough uphill drag to the finish line and there were small separations between riders but Matthews was the strongest of the bunch to take second, Girmay third and Van Aert fourth.
Despite winning in Quebec, Cosnefroy confirmed he will not be part of the French team for the World Championships in Australia.
“I’ve already decided that I won’t go to Worlds, that’s the way we planned it with French national coach Thomas Voeckler,” he revealed.
“I haven’t won any races until today and so I haven’t proved myself. I also want to win with AG2R in the final races of the season and going to Australia means a long trip and a lot of jet lag.”
How it unfolded
The Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec offered the peloton a challenging 12.6km circuit of the charming 400-year-old, walled-in Quebec City. The field completed 16 laps for a total of 201.6km.
Off the start line, the peloton descended along curving pathways through parts of the Parc des Champs-de-Bataille (Plains of Abraham) – a historic national battlefield – back up to the Grande Allée.
The field then turned down toward the Boulevard Champlain and raced alongside the Saint Lawrence River, the flattest section of the circuit, before taking on the three successive climbs. The climbs were Rue de la Montagne (10%), passed the famed Château Frontenac, Côte de la Potasse/Glacis (9%) and Montée de la Fabrique (7%), before looping back around to the uphill drag to the start-finish line on the Grande Allée.
Sébastien Grignard (Lotto Soudal) took the first point of the mountain competition over the Côte de la Potasse/des Glacis. Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious) followed along with Hugo Toumire (Cofidis), Miles Carson (Premier Tech U23 Cycling Project), and Stan Van Tricht (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) to form the day's breakaway of five on the opening lap.
BikeExchange-Jayco, with race-favourite Michael Matthews, Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux and Jumbo-Visma, did much of the pace-setting at the front of the main field and held the gap at four minutes.
Carson took the bulk of the early mountain points over the Côte de la Potasse/des Glacis, padding out an early lead in the special classification. However, the more significant points were available at the top of the climb in the race's closing laps.
Although the five riders maintained a lead for much of the race, their gap dropped significantly with four laps remaining, down to just 1:30 at the start of lap 13.
Carson was the first rider distanced from the breakaway and then caught and passed by the peloton with 50km to go.
The quartet of Caruso, Van Tricht, Toumire and Grignard had just over a minute in hand, but that gap was slashed when Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segaredo) launched an attack with 40km to go and animated the field behind.
Simmons was followed by Pascal Eenkhoorn (Jumbo-Visma), Jan Tratnik (Bahrain Victorious), Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech) and Andrea Piccolo (EF Education-EasyPost), who featured in the breakaway at the previous weekend's Maryland Cycling Classic and finished fifth.
The crowds held out hopes for a top placing from home favourite and recent stage winner of the Tour de France Hugo Houle (Israel-Premier Tech), but the Canadian abandoned the race with three laps remaining. Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) also pulled out of the race.
The chase group connected with the breakaway with two and a half laps remaining, but the group held a slim 45 seconds, acting almost as bait for the peloton that could see them just ahead on the circuit.
Fireworks in old Quebec City
All back together and stretched out through the Parc des Champs-de-Bataille, the first late-race attacks came from David Gaudu (Groupama FDJ) along the undulating city streets. His compatriot Romain Bardet (Team DSM) briefly joined the break but the move was quickly shut down.
Tratnik jumped over the top of the Côte de la Potasse/des Glacis, which ignited a new split in the field. The Slovenian was subsequently dropped as Aberto Betiol (EF Education-EasyPost), Clement Venturini (AG2R Citroën), and Mauro Schmid (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) gained a small gap.
That too was shut down in a flurry of short-lived attacks that made way for a larger front group to form with Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), Wout van Aert and Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma) at the start of the last lap.
Down through the Parc des Champs-de-Bataille for the last time, Michael Storer (Groupama FDJ), Nathan Van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma), Mikkel Honoré (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) and Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) split off the front of the field. The quartet gained nine seconds, stretching out to 14 long the Boulevard Champlain. However, as three sat up, Storer hit out on his own, but he too was caught inside 5km from the finish.
Jumbo-Visma lined out into the base of the climb up the Rue de la Montagne. The pace wasn't fast enough to cause any real separations, but it was enough to deter any significant attacks.
Jumbo-Visma's Tosh van der Sande buried himself along the Côte de la Potasse/des Glacis, but it wasn't enough to keep the attacks at bay.
Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R Citroen) made a searing (and winning) attack, gaining valuable seconds on a chasing Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma) and a fast-dwindling field.
Inside the last kilometre and onto the Grande Allée, Cosnefroy put his head down and pushed on his pedals, desperately trying to hold off the charging field to take the victory in Old Quebec City.
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