Preview: GP Cyclistes de Quebec and Montreal host final climber-friendly showdowns before worlds

The two Canadian races, which feature strong fields, are slated for Friday and Sunday

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MONTREAL (VN) — For the fourth consecutive year, North America’s only UCI WorldTour races will take place Friday and Sunday in Quebec and Montreal. A loaded roster of climbers and one-day specialists will take to Canada for the final showdown before the world championships on September 29.

This year’s editions of the Grand Prix Cyclistes de Québec and Montréal feature the strongest lineup the races have ever seen, as many of the riders targeting the upcoming world championships in Florence, Italy, will use the Canadian events for final prep work.

The 20 UCI ProTeams, which are all fielding strong squads, are joined by the Canadian National Team. Among the riders are four Tour de France winners, three stage winners of this year’s Tour, the winners of this year’s Paris-Nice and Clasica San Sebastian, as well as past champions of previous editions of both the GP Québec and Montréal.

Riders to watch

Chris Froome (Sky), who will target the rainbow jersey in just over two weeks in Florence, will be accompanied by his Tour de France rival Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), along with past Tour champions Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard) and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing). Given that both the Québec and Montréal courses are well-suited to climbers, each of the former Tour champs could factor. Evans won a stage at the Tour of Alberta last week and this weekend is a major test to determine whether the 2011 Tour champion is finding the form that carried him to the world title in 2009.

Other riders to watch include 2012 Giro d’Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and 2011 GP Montreal champion Rui Costa (Movistar), who nabbed two stage wins at this year’s Tour de France. Christophe Riblon (Ag2r La Mondiale), who triumphed in the double-Alpe d’Huez stage at this year’s Tour, could also challenge for the win. American Tejay van Garderen (BMC), fresh off his overall victory at the USA Pro Challenge said last month that he was building toward the worlds, where he’ll start with hopes of a high finish.

Even with so much fire power, Peter Sagan (Cannondale) is undoubtedly the rider the peloton will key off — in Quebec, at least. Sagan, who won a combined seven stages at the Pro Challenge and the Tour of Alberta, has spoke openly about targeting the Canadian races throughout his romp across Colorado and Alberta. Belkin’s Robert Gesink and Lars-Petter Nordhaug, the 2010 and 2012 GP Montreal champions, as well as Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida), Tony Gallopin (RadioShack), Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), and Richie Porte (Sky) are others to keep a close eye on.

David Veilleux (Europcar), who surprisingly announced this week that the GP Québec and Montréal will be his last races as a professional, also has the potential to challenge for the win. There is no doubt he will be a hometown favorite, and the crowd may inspire the first Quebecor to ride the Tour de France to put in an extra effort to finish his career on a high note.

Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec

The Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec takes place on a 12.6-kilometer city circuit that starts and finishes on the Grande-Allée, a bustling, restaurant- and boutique-lined boulevard that cuts straight through the heart of Québec City, the provincial capital. Right after the start, the race sweeps through Battlefields Park, along the infamous Plains of Abraham, before descending down to the banks of the Saint Lawrence River for a 4km flat stretch.

The race then enters historic Old Québec and hits its first climb, the Côte de la Montagne, with an average grade of 10 percent, followed by the Côte de la Potasse, with an average grade of nine percent. After a short descent, riders hit the Côte de la Fabrique (seven percent) just ahead of the final kilometer, a gradual climb back up to the finish on Grande-Allée.

The riders will complete 16 laps of the circuit for a total of 201.6km, with just under 10,000 feet of climbing.

Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal

The Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal starts and finishes on Park Avenue, on the grassy flanks of Mount Royal, which features the Côte Camilien-Houde — a punishing, 1.8km climb with an average grade of eight percent, which the riders have to ascend 17 times. From the start, the race immediately hits the Côte Camilien-Houde before descending down Remembrance Road, on the backside of Mount Royal. The next big climb is the Côte de la Polytechnique, which carries an average grade of six percent, including a 200-meter stretch at 11 percent. The course then descends for nearly 5km before making a U-turn back up Park Avenue toward the finish.

The riders will complete 17 laps of the 12.1km circuit for a total of 205.7km, and they will climb more than 12,000 vertical feet.

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