World’s best bikers race around Parc Mont-Royal on Sunday afternoon
Italian Diego Ulissi, from Team UAE Emirates, took an unexpected win in the 8th edition of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal (GPCM) on Sept. 10. After 205.7 kilometres and almost 4,000 metres of elevation gain, Ulissi out-sprinted Jesus Herrada, from Team Movistar, and Tom-Jelte Slagter, from Team Cannondale-Drapac, at the finish for the victory.
Nearly 200 riders were greeted with a cloudy morning, but by the 11 a.m. start time the sun was out and temperatures were up. Boisterous crowds rotated around the circuit, which ran around the boundaries of Parc Mont-Royal. Crowds packed the finish area and fan village at the foot of the Georges-Étienne Cartier monument on Park Avenue, banging the barriers to create a deafening rumble each time the cyclists came through.
Right out of the gate, Canadian National Road champion Matteo Dal-Cin from the Canadian National Team attacked and split fron the pack of riders, known as the peloton, with fellow Canadian Benjamin Perry, from Team Israel Cycling Academy, to form the day’s first breakaway.
The pair worked well and had a three-minute gap at the end of the first of 17 laps of the 12.1-kilometre circuit. The main pack of riders let the gap run out to upwards of four minutes, with Team Cannondale-Drapac setting a comfortable pace at the front. The pace ramped up surprisingly early, with the main pack splitting on the fifth ascent of the daunting Côte Camillien-Houde. Reigning Road Cycling World Champion Peter Sagan, from Team Bora-Hansgrohe, missed the split.
Sagan’s strong Bora-Hansgrohe team went to work dragging back the front group, and by lap six the peloton was back together. The race remained quiet until the seventh lap, when Sagan moved to the front on the descent of the Côte Camillien-Houde. He used his impressive bike handling skills to briefly pull clear of the peloton on the tricky downhill, but was brought back quickly once on flat roads.
Four riders attacked after Sagan was brought back, and established a gap of one minute with 50 kilometres to go. However, the peloton was in full flight and caught the quartet with 40 kilometres left. The race-winning breakaway escaped the bunch next, halfway through the 15th lap.
France’s Tony Gallopin, from Team Lotto-Soudal, put in a huge effort in the final kilometre, and established a small gap. The Frenchman ran out of steam with 500 metres remaining, and was swept up the six riders sprinting for the finish. At the end of over five hours of racing, Ulissi took his first Worldtour victory of the year, surpassing the race favourites with his gutsy decision to follow a late attack.
Many of the riders in Sunday’s GPCM will now prepare for this year’s UCI Road World Championships in Bergen, Norway, to be held from Sept. 16 to 24.
Main photo by Ayrton Wakfer.