Québec > Québec 204km
One of my favourite races of the year, I promise it’s got nothing to do with it being a Friday night and I’ll be watching with a bottle of wine. 16 laps of the circuit in Québec, one that has enough about it for the attackers to put pressure on the sprinters. 2965m of climbing in 204km isn’t the hardest race in the world, that’s why a sprint is the most likely scenario, but the position of the climbs gives the puncheurs hope.
Looks like heavy rain this morning, but there’s a good chance it’s going to clear up by the time the race starts, but there’s a constant risk of rain throughout the race.
The final 4km of each lap contains the climbing. First up is Côte de la Montagne, 375m at 10%. Then it’s Côte de la Potasse/Des Glacis, 420m at 9%, which is followed by the long drag up to the line, 1km at 4%. As I’ve already said, it’s the position of the climbs in relation to the finish which causes a headache for sprint teams and keeps us on the edge of our seats.
The teams can be split into two camps, those who want a sprint against those who don’t. In the red corner, representing the sprint teams, are Lotto, Intermarché, Ineos, Jumbo and Jayco. In the blue corner, representing the attackers, are AG2R, UAE, Trek, Quick Step, Bahrain, FDJ and EF. It’s a nice mix, which makes it an interesting race.
The action normally kicks off with 3 laps to go, that’s when teams start to use their pawns. Get them to attack, increase the pace, and hope the sprint teams start to burn through domestiques. In the penultimate lap, the big hitters start to get interested, but often it’s a fake move as most are unwilling to go full and risk losing the race, which takes us onto the final lap.
The battle to control the left-hand turn which leads onto Côte de la Montagne is crazy, you need a strong team to get near the front. Once on, someone will smash to the front and stretch the bunch, a winning move rarely goes here as it’s a little too far out. The perfect spot to attack is where Cosnefroy launched last year, that was made even better as no one could go with him. As soon as you get company, that’s when the problems start, and the move loses cohesion. Behind, those that want a sprint are going full trying to bring back the moves to set up a sprint finish. One of the reasons I like the race so much, not just the wine, is this fascinating battle between those who want a sprint and those who don’t, you just never know who’s going to succeed. Throw in some rain, and this will be a very exciting race.
Arnaud De Lie – is this the moment he wins his first world tour race? It’s been a good year, 7 wins in the bag already, but he would love to land his first big one. Lotto arrive with a solid team, they’ll get fully behind their team leader and try to ensure the race ends in a sprint. Vermeersch, Van Gils and Eenkhoorn will be very important, they’ll hope to have the legs to stop the attackers, allowing De Lie to rest and hopefully do his thing in the final 200m. De Lie has a fast sprint, but his uphill sprint is much better than his flat one, this is a perfect finish for him. He’s only 21, but this kid has a huge future in the sport.
Michael Matthews – won here in 2018 and 2019, the uphill finish is right up his street. Recent form hasn’t been great, but he was much better in Plouay, and riders love coming back to races they’ve got a good record in. Despite the presence of Simon Yates, I think the team will be all in for Bling, he’s their best shot at the title.
Christophe Laporte – tried, and failed, to bring back Cosnefroy last year. This year, he arrives as team leader, Wout is currently back in Europe. Laporte was way off the pace in Plouay, but that was probably used as training for this race. He’s no slouch in the sprint, but I don’t think he’s as fast as those already mentioned.
Biniam Girmay – has struggled since the Tour, but that can’t go on forever. If he can find some form, this is a great race for him. Bini has an excellent uphill sprint.
Ethan Hayter – it’s taking a while for him to get back to his best after crashing out of the Dauphiné, hopefully it comes before the end of the season. If he’s at his best, this is a good race for him, especially the uphill finish.
Matej Mohorič – current form is off the chart, he’s flying. After winning the Tour of Poland, he took the Queen stage in the Renewi Tour, Matej is currently enjoying Tour Legs. This is a good race for him, Bahrain will want a tough race to try and hurt the sprinters. He can go solo, but also win from a small group, he ticks many boxes for this race.
Mattias Skjelmose – another who’s flying just now. He won the Queen stage in the Tour of Denmark before winning the Maryland Classic last weekend. You’ll know I’m a big fan, but I think he might have a better chance in Montréal.
Tim Wellens – he’s back at his best! After crashing out of Flanders, his TT in Poland was the first sign of impending form, which he used to win the Renewi Tour. It’s not the perfect race for him, but when you’ve got the legs, you’ve got the legs. He’ll hope for some rain, that will make it a harder race and he always goes well in tough conditions.
Benoît Cosnefroy – I’m still not convinced by him this year.
I’ll go with a sprint finish and the first of many world tour wins for Arnaud De Lie.