Montréal > Montréal 224.9km
GP Montréal is a race I like; the hilly circuit guarantees exciting racing and I’m looking forward to a cracker of a race. It starts late afternoon over in Europe, so I can watch the early stages with my Sunday roast, before moving beside the fire with a bottle of wine for the closing stages. The route has been tinkered with over the years, an extra little climb was added in 2018, before the race was extended by a couple of laps in 2019. After a couple of years off the calendar the organisers have mainly stuck with the 2019 route, but with a tiny change. The extra climb that was added in 2018 has seen a change, the bunch will climb a parallel street to it, you’ll barely notice a difference. The race is 225km with 4855m of climbing, it’s a tough old race. On paper, one of the hardest one-day races in the year.
Cloudy sun with the temperature sitting around 25 degrees.
Straight after the start of the lap comes the hardest climb, Côte Camillien-Houde is 1.8km at 8%, this is where the climbers always look to put the pressure on. Next up is Côte de Polytechnique, which is 780m at 6%, it suits those with a punch. The “new” climb is next up and it’s just 534m at 7.5%, and the race ends with the usual grind up to the line, which is 560m at 4%.
As the bunch have to complete 18 laps of this, you can see why it’s going to be a selective race.
The front group will be small for the final laps of the race, this is where the damage can be done, and it’s a numbers game. When the front group is down to 10 riders, any team with multiple options will have a massive advantage. Climbers need to do the damage on the first climb, but it’s not long enough to see big gaps between the very best, and when it’s crested for the last time there’s still 10km to go, this makes it hard for climbers to win the race. Puncheurs who survive this, will be around for the finish, and most of these guys have a faster finish than the climbers. Greg Van Avermaet was the winner the last time we were here, despite all the climbing involved, it’s still a race that suits the puncheurs more than the pure climbers.
Van Aert is going to be isolated in the finale of the race, I don’t see anyone in his team reaching the final lap in the front group. Looking at the other teams in the race, I would expect UAE and possibly EF to be the most likely to have numbers, but there is no guarantee as legs at this point in the season are hard to predict. One thing is for sure, both Van Aert and Pogačar will want a hit out before the Worlds, I don’t think either will be too bothered if they don’t win the race, they’ll be more than happy to get a big race in the legs before heading off to Australia.
Pogačar will hope that Bennett, Ulissi or Formolo go deep into the race, they have the climbing ability to cope with the lap circuit. EF will look at Bettiol and Guerreiro, two riders who showed well in Germany. Given the current relegation situation, EF would love to win the race, or get both riders into the top 5.
I can see a situation where Van Aert and Pogačar take big swings at each other, significantly reducing the group, but I don’t think the circuit is hard enough for the two of them to get away from everyone else. Then with everyone looking at the big two, there’s a good chance for someone else to get away and take the win.
Wout Van Aert – I was surprised that he didn’t win on Friday, I think this race is harder for him to take the win as he won’t have teammates to help in the final lap. This is his final race before the world championships, he’ll be hoping for a very hard day in the saddle, it’s the best way to prepare for what should be a very tough day in Australia. Winning is going to be hard as everyone will be expecting him to chase down moves, it doesn’t mean he won’t win, but I think he could cut a frustrated figure in the finale of the race.
Tadej Pogačar – I’m hoping to see him ride a very attacking race, it would make for great TV. With the worlds not far away, he’ll be wanting to see where he is compared to Van Aert. I don’t see where he’ll be able to drop Van Aert, I think the key for UAE is to have another rider in the front group in the final laps. Fingers crossed Pogi wants to come out to play!
Pello Bilbao – current form is excellent, and this is a race that suits his characteristics. He’s the type of rider who could benefit from Van Aert and Pogačar staring each other out. The uphill finish is excellent for him, but not if the big two are still in the group.
Adam Yates – another who’s current form is very impressive. He’s not someone who usually wins one-day races, his last success was way back in 2017, but this should be a good race for him. He won’t win from a sprint, so Yates needs to go long and try to get a group off the front.
Ruben Guerriero – EF need the points, and he should be their best option. He’s not as good as those already mentioned, but he should be challenging for the top 5.
Andrea Bagioli – it’s just a question about his current form. This is the type of race he should do well in, but he’s not come out of the Tour de France in great shape. If not him, Mikkel Honoré could do well in this race.
Benoît Cosnefroy – took a brilliant win on Friday, it was a surprise considering his recent results. I think he’ll find that this race is too hard for him.
Diego Ulissi – if UAE are the team with two riders in the front group, they should win the race. Normally, a rider like Ulissi should be able to go the distance.
Van Aert and Pogačar to take chunks out of each other, then everyone else looks at them to cover the moves, and we get a “surprise” winner. I’ll go with Pello Bilbao, and I’m expecting one hell of a race.