Québec > Québec 204.0km
Friday night racing is back for those of us in Europe, so grab your drink of choice (I’ll have a bottle of wine) and get ready for crit racing, Canadian style! After two years off the calendar due to COVID, the professional peloton is back and ready for the usual mix of punchy climbs and a likely sprint finish.
Beautiful sunshine and it’ll be warm too.
It’s a circuit I’m sure you all know well. There are three climbs, but the two steep ones are very short and you’re over them before you know it. The main feature of the lap is the rise to the finishing line which is 1km at 4%.
A sprint isn’t guaranteed, but that’s how the race usually finishes. We do have some climbs where riders will attack, the problem is that the climbs aren’t long enough to do a lot of damage. The race should start to kick off with three laps to go, that’s when we’ll start to see some riders starting to get dropped. Those who don’t want a sprint will try and use the steep ramps to get off the front, hoping that a large group goes clear containing all the big teams. If it doesn’t, it’s more than likely to get chased down.
Last time we were here it was 2019 and a small group edged off the front in the last 2km, containing race favourite Peter Sagan. The group didn’t work well together and when the sprint was launched from behind, it was Michael Matthews who took the win with Sagan finishing in second.
This time round we have several fast finishers who’ll be looking forward to a sprint, but teams like UAE and QuickStep will want a hard race to try and surprise the fast men. With all eyes on Jumbo-Visma, we’ll see how they approach the race. They have the big favourite in Wout Van Aert, but as his main focus is the world championships, they might give freedom to some of their other riders.
Wout Van Aert – his return to racing after the Tour de France has gone very well. Okay, he made a mistake in BEMER Cyclassics and finished 2nd, but he was magnificent in Plouay, I’ve no idea how he managed to win after doing so much work. The big difference between France and here is the strength of his team, it’s the A-team for this race. He should be able to rely on his teammates to chase down the moves and set up a big finish, but we know that Van Aert isn’t scared of attacking and turning the tables on his rivals. Of course, he starts as the big favourite.
Michael Matthews – won here in 2018 and 2019, the finish is very good for him. The big issue he’ll have this year is the presence of Van Aert, it’s hard to imagine Matthews being able to beat him in a sprint. BikeExchange need to try and attack, forcing Van Aert into using up some energy before the finish.
Peter Sagan – the winner here in 2016 and 2017, Sagan will hope a return to a happy stomping ground will turn around his recent results. I don’t think he’ll win, but I think he’ll be challenging for the podium.
Biniam Girmay – the second half of his season has failed to live up to the first half, but that’s not too much of a surprise considering his age and just how good he was in the classics and Giro. 6th and 4th in his last two races show that his form is improving, and he’ll love the uphill sprint, the key will be saving all his energy for the finish and not chasing down any moves.
Jasper Stuyven – the Belgian loves this part of the season, it’s often when he produces his best results. He got the rust out of his legs in the Tour of Denmark, and I think he’ll be at his best from now until the end of the season. We’ll have to see how he approaches this race; he’d prefer a tough day with lots of attacking.
Tadej Pogačar – I’m looking forward to seeing what shape he’s in with the world championships just around the corner. He was posted missing in Plouay, but that was to be expected as it was his first race back after the Tour de France. This race isn’t ideal for Pogačar, I hope to see him using it as a training exercise, launching repeated attacks in the closing laps.
Alberto Bettiol – after a good performance in the Deutschland Tour, the Italian will line up in Canada hoping to shake things up a bit. He’s the type of rider who guarantees attacking, there’s no way he’ll simply roll round and wait for the sprint. Winning will be hard, but I hope to see him test some legs.
I think we’ll see attacks in the closing kilometres, hopefully from Pogačar and Bettiol. At that point, Van Aert will hope to have teammates to cover the moves and let him save everything for the finish. It’s a little on the boring side, but I’ll take another win for Wout Van Aert. Now, where’s my wine.