Things to keep an eye on ahead of the Canadian WorldTour Classics

The WorldTour visits Canada

Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal 2016 (Watson)

Canada doesn’t get to see much of the world best road cyclists, but for one week every season the WorldTour crosses the Atlantic for the GP de Québec and the GP de Montréal.

>>> Greg Van Avermaet heads up GP Québec and Grand Prix de Montréal 2018 start lists

Held on Friday and Sunday, both these one-day Classics are circuit-based races, taking in the sights of two of French Canada’s most famous cities.

Both have been a feature on the calendar since 2010, and in that time has reliably attracted a quality roster of riders, and produced some big name winners – Peter Sagan and Simon Gerrans share the record number of his for the former race, while the likes of Greg Van Avermaet and Tim Wellens have triumphed in the latter.

A draggy uphill sprint at the GP de Québec

Peter Sagan wins the 2017 GP Quebec. Photo: ©BORA-hansgrohe / VeloImages

The first race – Friday’s GP de Québec – tends to culminate in a bunch sprint.

But not a flat sprint finish – the run-in to the line is draggy and tends to favour puncheurs rather than pure sprinters, with Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) having triumphed in each of the last two editions.

Although four of the last five editions have ended in a sizeable group of riders making it to the finish line together, a sprint finish isn’t guaranteed. There are several short, punchy climbs on the route, most not lasting more than a single kilometre, but with steep enough gradients to encourage attacks.

One rider who will vouch for this is Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First-Drapac) who won the 2015 edition with a solo attack just 500m from the line, and has replicated that late attack – albeit unsuccessfully – in the two editions since.

His participation at the Vuelta a España means he’ll miss this year’s race, but expect some riders to try to follow his example.

Chances for attackers at the GP de Montréal

Tim Wellens wins 2015 Montreal Grand Prix (Watson)

There are more chances for successful attacks at the GP de Montréal two days later.

On top of the four per cent drag to the finish, there are two climbs in the circuit. At 1.8km in length, the first – Côte Camillien-Houde – is longer than anything in the GP de Québec and features a tough gradient to at eight per cent.

Up next is the Côte de la Polytechnique, a more modest effort at less than 1km, but featuring a maximum gradient of 11 per cent that will hurt more with each lap.

Recent editions suggest a breakaway of some description will succeed – in 2017 a six-man escape group made it to the line, with Diego Ulissi coming out on top, while a horribly rainy edition in 2015 saw Tim Wellens get the better of Adam Yates after the pair had gone clear from the rest of the race.

But the 2016 edition, won by Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) in a sizeable bunch finish, is a reminder that a big group could make it to the finish in tact.

Some of the peloton’s top puncheurs

Greg Van Avermaet attacks at the 2018 E3 Harelbeke (Sunada)

Despite the slight variations of their parcours, both races will have the same start lists, dominated by puncheurs.

The headline name this year is Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), who won in Montréal two years ago, and will inevitably be a threat whether from a breakaway or in a sprint.

One of his main rivals will be Michael Matthews (Sunweb), who has been on great form lately having finished second overall at the BinckBank Tour, and will be difficult for anyone to beat on a slightly uphill sprint.

Others to look out for include Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), one of the riders most likely to mix things up with a longer-range attack, and Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates), who may be enduring a lacklustre season, but has a great record in these races – in the last three years he has finished first and third in Montreal and fifth at Québec.

Riders preparing for the Worlds

Jakob Fuglsang at the 2017 Critérium du Dauphiné (ASO)

Most riders harbouring ambitions of a high finish at the World Championships later this month are building their form up either at the Vuelta a España or the Tour of Britain, but there are some…

Although there aren’t as many kilometres to get into the legs as those two stage races, the fact both feature circuits make them more proximate to the challenge that awaits in Innsbruck.

For Denmark, Astana’s lineup could be a trial run for how they plan to ride the Worlds – Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Michael Valgren and Magnus Cort will all ride together, all of whom will want to demonstrate to their national selectors that they represent Denmark’s best chance of success.

There will also be some rivalry among Slovenian riders. Both Simon Špilak and Matej Mohoric will ride against each other for Katusha-Alpecin and Bahrain-Merida respectively, the former having shown great form of late with overall victories at both the BinckBank and Deutschland Tours.