2023 GP Montréal Preview

Montréal > Montréal 225km

One of the hardest races on the calendar. We have 4843m of climbing over 225km, I can’t wait for the worlds here in 3 years. Last year, it was Pogačar beating Van Aert and co in a small sprint, and UAE arrive with a team to try and retain the title. Can anyone stop them?

Weather

Heavy rain is expected early in the day, but it should have cleared by the time the race starts. Just like on Friday, there’s a serious threat of rain throughout the whole day.

The Circuit

There are four climbs in the circuit, the hardest is Côte Camillien-Houde, which is 1.8km at 8%, and starts just at the beginning of each lap. Then there’s Côte de Polytechnique (780m at 6%), Pagnuelo (530m at 7.5%) and the drag up to the line (560m at 4%). This is just the third edition using the “new” route, the organisers added a couple of laps to increase the difficulty, which has certainly done the trick.

Tactics

UAE have a stacked team, they mean business. They have Adam Yates, Hirschi, Wellens and McNulty as options, they are going to make the race hard, which is exactly what they did last year. In 2022, it was all about sapping the legs of Van Aert, and it worked, but this time round they are faced with a different challenge.

The favourite to win the race isn’t in the UAE team, it’s Mattias Skjelmose of Lidl-Trek. The Dane arrives here in brilliant form, after a stunning season, but his team aren’t strong enough to boss the race. If the pace is up from the start, Skjelmose is likely to have no teammates for the last two laps, and that is when UAE can play their cards. The race isn’t just about those two teams, we have an array of talented climbers/puncheurs who will fancy their chances of taking the win. 

The type of rider who can win this race depends on the pace throughout the day. If it’s too slow, it opens the doors to the puncheurs, especially if the race is only on in the final two or three laps. If the pace is high, this should be a race for the climbers. However, I’m not talking about those who only do well on big mountains, the climbs here are all short, you need punch to win. Last year’s winning group was Pogačar, Van Aert, Bagioli, Gaudu and Adam Yates, that gives you an idea of who can win this race, it’s not just one type of rider.

I think UAE will hit it hard, trying to make it a selective race, then look to get multiple riders in the front group. Adam Yates will likely be their star man, but as you normally need a sprint to win the race, they need to manufacture a situation where he can go solo, which isn’t easy. It’s up to the others to try and stop them.

Contenders

UAE – Adam Yates is good in this race, he’s got the punch for the climbs, but not the sprint if it’s a small group. Marc Hirschi provides a viable second option, he’s got the sprint from a small group and excels in one-day races. The team also have Tim Wellens and Brandon McNulty in good form, and if it rains, we all know that Tim is very hard to beat. With so many options, I expect UAE to control the race and decide the outcome. They know that Skjelmose will be very hard to beat in a sprint, so they need to make him use up vital energy before then, and they’ve got the team to do so.

Bahrain – Bilbao is their leader, but Mohorič could also be in with a shout if the race isn’t super hard. Mohorič is one who’ll suffer if UAE lift the pace, but if Bilbao can go as well as he did in San Sebastian, he’ll be fighting for the win.

Simon Yates – his form at the end of the season is normally patchy at best. He looked okay in Québec, and this race should suit him, but I wouldn’t be putting a bet on him, he can’t be trusted in Autumn.

Mattias Skjelmose – the big favourite with the bookies, and I understand why. He took a dominant win in the Maryland Classic, and sprinted to a top 10 result in Québec, my young Danish friend is flying just now. He’s got the punch required for this race, and his excellent sprint is also a big tick for him, but I do worry about team strength. If isolated, he’s going to find it very hard to respond to the team strength of UAE.

Valentin Madouas – took an excellent win in Plouay, but I’m not sure about him in this race, I don’t think he’ll cope with the big climb when the climbers hit the accelerator. 

Neilson Powless – it’s been a long season for the American, remember that he was winning all the way back in January. He’d love to squeeze one more big result out, but I fear the well is dry.

Michael Woods – as a Canadian, it’s funny that he’s not raced here since 2019. This is a big goal for Woods, and the route should suit him well. He skipped the Maryland Classic after getting sick, but he looked good in trying to set up Corbin Strong in Québec. He’s one the others will have to keep a close eye on.

Ilan Van Wilder – another rider who comes here in great form, his win in the Deutschland Tour was a big moment in his career. He’s punchy enough to cope with the climbs and has a good sprint, I think he’ll be the best QuickStep option, I’m still not convinced by Alaphilippe.

Tiesj Benoot – was very strong in Plouay, but maybe showed his hand too early and missed the winning move. He’ll need to be at his very best to challenge in this race, especially if UAE make it hard from far out.

Prediction Time

I’ll take a win for UAE; they look the strongest by a country mile. After going well here in the past, I think it’s a day for Adam Yates.

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