Michael Matthews (Sunweb) won the 2018 GP de Québec in a sprint finish.
The Australian out-sprinted Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) – who finished second in the race for the third year running – and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), to seal his third win of the season.
Although the race culminated in its usual big bunch finish, Peter Kennaugh (Bora-Hansgrohe) came close to upsetting the sprinters with an attack on the third to last lap. He retained a gap under the flamme rouge, but the uphill finish proved his undoing and he was caught with just 300 metres to go.
In the sprint, Enrico Gasparotto (Bahrain-Merida) went early, allowing Matthews – who was about to run out of wheels to follow – to swing over and latch onto his slipstream.
When the Italian exhausted his resources, Matthews, Van Avermaet and Timo Roosen (LottoNL-Jumbo) started their sprints neck and neck, before Matthews accelerated away for victory.
How it happened
A breakaway group of five was established at the start of the day, consisting of Nicolas Dougall (Dimension Data), Guy Sagiv (Israel Cycling Academy), Rob Britton (Rally Cycling), Alex Cataford and Bruno Langlois (both Team Canada).
The break built a maximum lead of in excess of over six minutes over a peloton lead mostly by BMC’s Kilian Frankiny, but began to come down when other teams started to pull at the front.
The race did not begin with a full set of riders, with Magnus Cort (Astana) and Lars Bak (Lotto-Soudal) both failing to make the start line due to illness, and more abandoned after some nasty crashes.
At one point a dog escaped its leash and ran amok in the peloton, causing a crash that forced Nuno Matos (Movistar) to exit the race.
Later, with around 55km, another four riders went down on a tight corner, including Ruben Plaza (Israel Cycling Academy), who abandoned, and last year’s sixth-place finisher Tom Jelte Slagter (Dimension Data), who managed to make it back to the peloton after 10km of chasing.
The most significant increase in pace came courtesy of Astana, who amassed at the front on the 13th lap, by the end of which the gap was down to just 1-16.
Their work eventually set up an attack from Jakob Fuglsang on the Côte de la Montagne, 29km from the finish.
Peter Kennaugh (Bora-Hansgrohe) had more success with his counter-attack on the subsequent descent, gaining a gap and picking off the remains of the splintered break of the day as he began the penultimate lap.
Britton and Langlois were the last two survivors, and were caught by Kennaugh with 22km to go. By that point the peloton were just 20 seconds behind, with other riders in between also attempting to bridge up to the leading trio.
The fresher Kennaugh soon dropped the other two riders five kilometres later, but saw his gap come down to just 12 seconds following an attack from Kenny Elissonde (Sky) in the peloton.
Kennaugh nevertheless stuck it at, and by the start of the last lap remained around 20 seconds ahead of the peloton, and a little less over a chasing trio that had been established consisting of Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Robert Carpenter (Rally Cycling) and Matthias Frank (Ag2r La Mondiale).
That trio was joined by another three riders with 10km to go: Nathan Brown (EF Education First-Drapac), Nathan Earle (Israel Cycling Academy) and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ).
As a group of six they failed to work well together, however, and were swept up by the peloton 6.5km from the line.
Kennaugh remained out in front, but work from Trek-Segafredo, UAE Emirates and Dimension Data brought him within touching distance.
Still the Manxman hung on, however, somehow resisting the charging peloton over the final climb.
It was only with 300 metres to go that he was at last caught, paving the way for the bunch sprint won by Matthews.
Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec 2018 (201.6km)
1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb
2 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
3 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
4 Timo Roosen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
5 Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
6 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quick-Step Floors
7 Arthur Vichot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
8 Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin
9 Michael Valgren (Den) Astana Pro Team
10 Anthony Roux (Fra) Groupama-FDJ