Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal 2014 Post-race Impressions: Gerrans Dominates, Making Strong Statement for Upcoming World Championships

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With the conclusion of the GP Montreal, the WorldTour’s yearly visit to Canada is now complete. With the World Championships around the corner, today’s race offered plenty of takeaways. Starting with the obvious, Simon Gerrans dominated the Canadian WorldTour double. Before 2014, no rider had ever won both races in the same season. Gerrans did it this week, and he made it look easy. It helped that his team rode a perfect race. They did some pace-setting early, but they let other teams do the lion’s share of the work to bring back the breakaway. Then, in the final few kilometers, Orica-GreenEdge hit the front and took control. They had plenty of riders left in the finale to put Gerrans into perfect position for the sprint, and he was so far ahead of anyone else on the finishing straight that he had both hands in the air well before the line.

Mathew Hayman spent a lot of time early in the day at the front of the peloton, driving the pace the keep the break in check.

At age 34, Gerrans seems to have just hit his prime, taking his third one-day WorldTour win this year (he also won a stage and the overall at the Tour Down Under in January). He’ll be among the top favorites for the upcoming World Champs, where a hilly circuit with a flat finish could very likely come down to a reduced sprint; current World Champion Rui Costa voiced this very sentiment in the post-race press conference.

Speaking of Costa, he said after the race that he was happy with the result. He was unable to get clear of the pack in the last few kilometers, but still had enough energy to take 2nd place in the sprint. On the one hand, the number of 2nd place finishes Costa has racked up in the rainbow jersey has to be frustrating. On the other hand, his ability to pick up so many top results is still very impressive, and after having a quiet few weeks after his Tour de France exit, he showed in Montreal that he’s returning to his best ahead of what will be a very difficult Worlds defense.

Tony Gallopin was a decent 9th place in Quebec, and a much stronger 3rd (he was inches away from 2nd, with Costa just barely ahead of him at the line) in Montreal. With Gallopin and Tim Wellens performing so well recently, Lotto Belisol has to be pleased that they’ve gone from a team essentially built to drag Andre Greipel to the line in the pure sprints to a team that can mix it up with the very best on the hilly profiles.

I wasn’t sure how to gauge the chances of Ramunas Navardauskas coming into Montreal, where the circuit is harder than that in Quebec. He proved to be quite capable on the climbs, and sprinted to 4th place. It’s been a career year for Navardauskas. He’s proved amazingly versatile, landing big results on all sorts of profiles. I said after Quebec that he’ll be a rider to watch at Worlds in two weeks, and today in Montreal he made another loud statement.

Romain Bardet, in 5th, notched his second Top 10 in a WorldTour one-day race this year, the other coming in Liege-Bastogne-Liege. He’s still just 23, and he outgunned Greg Van Avermaet, Enrico Gasparotto, and Bauke Mollema, among others, in the finishing sprint here. He may be known for his stage-racing skills, but it will be hard to overlook him in the Ardennes Classics in 2015 with results like this.

Tom Dumoulin only managed to follow up his runner-up performance in Quebec with a 6th place in Montreal, but that’s still a big ride for the Dutchman, who will continue to develop. Greg Van Avermaet probably won’t feel particularly satisfied with 7th, but he did outperform every other Belgian in Montreal, just as he did in Quebec. With Worlds team selection around the corner, that’s huge. Tom-Jelte Slagter put in another decent ride ahead of the World Championships, landing 12th, not bad with Narvardauskas getting the backing in the sprint. In 13th place and among some very impressive company, 22-year-old Petr Vakoc was the best-placed rider for OPQS. They had a strong team here in Montreal, so they probably won’t be satisfied with that, but Vakoc should take confidence from the result. He won a stage in and, very impressively, rode well enough for the remainder of the Tour de Pologne to take 10th overall, and this is another showing of ability from the up-and-coming Czech rider.

Among those who underwhelmed today was Alexander Kristoff, though I don’t find his inability to land a result here particularly surprising. Once the pace picked up in the final few laps, he struggled mightily to hold on. He was dropped with plenty of time left to go in the race, and rolled in over 8 minutes down. I don’t think it means all that much (Montreal’s climbs are tough), but it is at the very least a missed opportunity for Kristoff to prove that he can handle the tougher vertical challenges with Worlds around the corner.

Said World Championship Road Race is now just two weeks away. The ITT is only ten days away! VH will be previewing the team time trial, the individual time trial, and the road race, so stay tuned.

-Dane Cash

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