Having sprinted to third place in Quebec on Friday, Van Avermaet’s victory was yet another confirmation of his form ahead of the upcoming UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire, and the result of strong teamwork to position the Belgian in the finale.
With 220 kilometers and more than 4000 meters of climbing on the cards, with two additional laps of the 12-kilometer course added to the race, the peloton was content to let five riders go clear as soon as the flag dropped.
Despite gaining an advantage of more than ten minutes, the group posed no threat and the peloton began to pick the pace up in the second half of the race to come within two minutes of the group with 60 kilometers to go.
With five laps to go, riders started to attack from the bunch but Van Avermaet’s CCC Team teammates remained attentive until the final breakaway rider was caught with 30 kilometers to go.
A string of attacks split the bunch with Van Avermaet and Joey Rosskopf well-positioned at the front and one lap later, Michael Schär covered attacks from a group of around 20 riders while behind, Van Avermaet had Rosskopf and Simon Geschke to guide him into the penultimate lap.
The ever-changing race situation saw Schär and Rosskopf lead the bunch, with Van Avermaet in their wheels, in pursuit of Nathan Earle (Israel Cycling Academy), who had a slight advantage as the bell rang to indicate the final lap.
With Earle caught, the final climbs saw Van Avermaet make a front selection of 20 riders, from which a string of attacks from the likes of Benoit Cosnefroy (AG2R La Mondiale), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), and Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) were launched.
Ultimately, the group came back together on the final hairpin turn into the finish and with the combination of perfect positioning and strong legs, Van Avermaet was able to launch his sprint at the right moment to come around Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) and Ivan Garcia Cortina (Bahrain Merida) to raise his arms in triumph.
Van Avermaet’s victory confirms his dominance at the Canadian races with nine combined podium results to his name at both races.
The Winner’s Interview with Greg Van Avermaet
Congratulations, Greg! How happy are you to win here in Montreal?
“I’m very happy to win here for sure. It’s been a year of a lot of top ten places and podiums but never really a big win in a WorldTour race so I’m super happy to finally get it. I’m happy for the team, happy for the sponsor, CCC, and especially for myself. I knew it would be a close call to stay away or to bring Alaphilippe back. Everything went well in the end. I tried to bridge to Wellens on the last climb, but it was all stretched out with small gaps and luckily everything came back. I knew the finish was good for me and I know that after a hard race like this I still have a good sprint in the end. I could follow the wheel of Ulissi in the last 200 meters and I could come out. It was a super nice victory. We were often on the podium but never winning so it’s a big satisfaction to finally have this big win.
How important is this win for you?
If you’re close to the win you don’t miss that much. I was not panicking but you know as a leader of the team, especially a new team, it is always nice to have some nice victories. I was close in the spring, close in the Tour de France, and I was second in San Sebastian. You start to doubt, but I’ve been in great shape all year and winning is the most important. I finally got this one and this is important for myself and the team. It’s good to see the leader winning, that’s the most important. I was close a few times, I was feeling it was coming but you always have to finish it off. I was in good shape in Quebec and the win finally came here. These races are fitting me well and they are similar races to the World Championships.
How much confidence does this give you ahead of the UCI Road World Championships?
“First of all, I want to enjoy the victory here because I worked very hard to be in good shape at the end of the year. Winning doesn’t happen too often for me so first I want to enjoy this victory. I’m just happy that I’m in shape and we will see how it will be in two weeks at the Worlds. I think it’s a good course for me and I’m happy with my shape, that’s the most important. We will see how the race goes and what plan we have with the Belgian team.”
Steve Bauer, Sports Director:
“It’s a huge, huge win for Greg and the team. I think patience is always the key. It was a classic, World Championship-style race. On the last lap, the guys were splitting and attacking, Cosnefroy (AG2R La Mondiale) had a really good go and when they started to claw him back at two to three kilometers to go and they bridged to him, I said Greg, that’s your race. They just came back together and I knew he had the strongest sprint. Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) wasn’t there anymore so he had a great chance to win and he came through.
We had guys covering moves in the finale. For example, Simon Geschke was in a good attack a lap earlier, Joey Rosskopf made sure to hit the front on the final lap, Michael Schär did a great job of positioning Greg and then when the strong men were in front, Greg played his game all the way to the line. He sprinted and he won it which is a great way to finish a fantastic weekend here in Canada.”
Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal
Montreal > Montreal (219.6km)
Top 3: 1. Greg Van Avermaet, 2. Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates), 3. Ivan Garcia Cortina (Bahrain Merida)
CCC Team top 3: 1. Greg Van Avermaet, 47. Joey Rosskopf, 72. Simon Geschke