QUÉBEC, Sept. 7, 2018 /CNW Telbec/ - Twice on the podium in the past, Australia's Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) avenged a disappointing season by raising the arms at last in the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec on Friday.
Forced out of the Tour de France, hampered by saddle problems and not selected by his team for the world championships in Innsbruck next month, "Bling" set the record straight by outsprinting Belgium's Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek - Segafredo) on the finish line on Grande Allée.
Second in the old capital in 2015 and third a year ago, Matthews had made the two Canadian UCI WorldTour races his major goals of the end of the season and he delivered at last, in blistering fashion, to clinch his first one-day race at WorldTour level.
The result is especially disappointing for Olympic champion Van Avermaet, who now finished runner-up in Québec City for the 4th time.
The start was given at 11:00 without Lars Bak (Lotto Soudal) and Cort Magnus Nielsen (Astana Pro Team), who pulled out with stomach problems.
After two kilometers, five riders broke clear. They were Guy Sagiv (Israel Cycling Academy), Bruno Langlois (Team Canada), Nicolas Dougall (Team Dimension Data), Alexander Cataford (Team Canada) and Robert Britton (Rally Cycling Team). As the peloton, led by BMC Racing Team riders, gave them the go-ahead, their lead quickly grew to top at 6:30 after three laps. Alex Cataford took advantage of the breakaway to collect the KOM points on Cote des Glacis for 13 laps.
A freak incident involved Portugal's Nuno Bico (Movistar Team), who hit a stray dog who came running into the peloton in the 7th lap. With five laps to go, Spain's Ruben Plaza (Israel Cycling Academy) was also forced out of the race after a crash at the back of the main pack.
With four laps and 50 km to go, the gap between the five escapees and the main pack had gone down to 3:40.
With four laps to go, Astana Pro Team took the reins of the bunch and the gap quickly went down. In the last two laps, only Rob Britton (Rally Cycling Academy) and Bruno Langlois were left of the original breakaway group and they were joined by Briton Peter Kennaugh (Bora-Hansgrohe), who went on his own with one lap to go. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana Pro Team), David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Nathan Earle (Israel Cycling Academy), Robin Carpenter (Rally Cycling Team), Nathan Brown (EF Education First–Drapac p/b Cannondale) and Mathias Frank (AG2R La Mondiale) chased behind Kennaugh for a while before being reeled in. Kennaugh, aiming to emulate team leader Peter Sagan, winner of the last two editions, resisted until 500 metres before the line until the peloton launched the final sprint.
Matthews was quickest in action and held Van Avermaet at bay until the line, forcing him to settle for second once again. The Olympic champion will be out for revenge in Montréal on Sunday in a race he won in 2016.
MICHAEL MATTHEWS (TEAM SUNWEB, WINNER)
"This is my first win in a classic. I've had wins on each of the Grand Tours and I won the green jersey on the Tour de France. But I had never won a one-day race at WorldTour level and I'm especially happy it took place in Quebec as I love coming here every year. That's the thing I thought about when I crossed the line. I'm the second Australian to win here after Simon Gerrans. He was one of my idols in cycling. It was one of my team's goals today to race here the way he did in 2014 and I was capable to do that. He won't be here next year unfortunately."
GREG VAN AVERMAET (BMC TEAM RACING, 2ND)
"I was twice second behind Peter Sagan, now I'm behind Michael Matthews. I'm on the podium again. That's something. It's a good result for me too. I launched the sprint with 200 metres to go. I like to do long sprints, but Michael was really strong. I was behind him and I could not do any better. But I'm glad with my form and I hope to do better in Montréal."
JASPER STUYVEN (TREAK-SEGAFREDO, 3RD)
"We had decided at the start that I would be the leader here and John (Degenkolb) in Montréal. I was positioned well, just behind Greg, but it was not enough. Montréal has been a course that has suited me better in the past. I'm always asked what I should do to improve from my second or third places, I don't know, work harder and hope that in the months and years to come I can make it."
MICHAEL MATTHEWS FACTFILE
Born September 26, 1990 in Canberra (Australia)
1.80 m - 70 kg
Professionnal in 2009: Team Jayco (09-10), Rabobank (11-12), Orica-GreenEdge (13-16), Team Sunweb (17-19)
36 victories including 5th and 21st stages of the Spanish Vuelta in 2013, 6th stage of the Giro d'Italia, 3rd stage of the Spanish Vuelta in 2014, 3rd stage of the Giro d'Italia in 2015, 10th stage of the Tour de France in 2016, 14th and 16th stages of the Tour de France in 2017, prologue of the Tour de Romandie, GP de Québec in 2018.
Podium places: 2nd GP de Québec, 2nd world championship, 3rd Milan-San Remo, 3rd Amstel Gold Race in 2015 - 3rd Ride London Classic, 4th Bretagne Classic, 4th GP de Montréal, 4th world championship in 2016 - 3rd Prudential RideLondon, 3rd GP de Québec, 3rd world championship, 4th Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2017.
This season: 7th Milan-San Remo, 5th Flèche Wallonne, 2nd GP de Francfort, 2nd Binck Bank Tour, 4th Bretagne Classic, 1st GP de Quebec.
ABOUT THE #GPCQM
The Grands Prix Cyclistes de Québec et de Montréal, the only two spots on the International Cycling Union (UCI) WorldTour in the Americas, contribute to fulfilling one of the primary objectives of the International Cycling Union (UCI): the globalization of the WorldTour circuit. These tour stops are in addition to the existing, officially sanctioned events in Europe and Oceania. Since 2010, the organization has been responsible for the planning and the conduct of the GPCQM and counts on the invaluable support of public and private partners: the Government of Canada, the Gouvernement du Québec, the city of Québec, the city of Montréal, the National Battlefields Commission, Québec City Tourism, Tourisme Montréal, Québecor, Air Transat, and TVA Sports (official GPCQM broadcaster).
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