The world champion and current WorldTour ranking leader took the victory ahead of Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) in second and Anthony Roux (FDJ) in third. Sagan said after the race that he had not felt good during the event, and was surprised to win – his first victory since returning to the road after contesting the Rio 2016 mountain bike event.
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“I am very happy and must thank all my teammates as they worked really hard today,” said Sagan.
“It was unbelievable because I didn’t feel very good during the race, and I was getting cramps in the legs but they passed and I’m really happy to take the win. For sure I didn’t expect that I could win today.”
The day’s eight-man escape group consisted of Valerio Agnoli (Astana), Lars Bak (Lotto-Soudal), Jan Barta (Bora-Argon 18), Maxim Belkov (Katusha), Matt Brammeier (Dimension Data), Twan Castelijns (LottoNL-Jumbo), Nicolas Masbourain (Canada) and Alexandre Pichot (Direct Energie) as they set out to tackle 16 laps of a hilly 12.6km circuit.
The break made decent headway until the peloton started chasing them down with greater urgency into the final 60km. All but Bak were caught with 40km to go, with Luke Rowe (Sky) and Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) joining Bak.
Inevitably, after a day in the break, Bak quickly faded leaving Rowe and Alaphilippe. With such a strong duo out front and with only 35km remaining, the peloton’s speed increased dramatically.
Alaphilippe was the more active of the two, taking longer turns on the front. Rowe was eventually dropped by Alaphilippe on the Rue de la Montagne climb, and the Frenchman went solo for a brief spell before being caught.
After another unsuccessful escape group led by Fabio Aru (Astana) formed and was caught, Matej Mohoric (Lampre-Merdia) tried his luck with a solo escape with 20km to go. Orica-BikeExchange and Direct Energie led the bunch in pursuit and he was also absorbed as the race hit the penultimate passage of the Rue de la Montagne climb.
Into the final lap, Paul Voss (Bora-Argon18) held a small lead over the reduced bunch, and then followed an attack by Oliver Naesen (IAM). This time it was Sky who hit the front to turn up the heat and reel Naesen in.
The last time up Rue de la Montagne took its toll on tired legs, and many riders were dropped, including Geraint Thomas (Sky) and Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange).
Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) attacked into the final kilometre. However, having kept himself almost anonymous in the bunch for all of the race, Sagan accelerated up the right-hand side of the road into the finish to take the victory with clear space between himself and the rest of the peloton.
The double-header of Canadian WorldTour races continues on Sunday, September 11, with the GP de Montréal.
Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec 2016, 201.6km
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff in 5-07-13
2. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing
3. Anthony Roux (Fra) FDJ
4. Alberto Bettiol (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac
5. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-BikeExchange
6. Nathan Haas (Aus) Dimension Data
7. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida
8. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
9. Youcef Reguigui (Alg) Dimension Data
10. Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Katusha all same time