Three years later, the WorldTour peloton returned to Canada. In the first round, the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec, Groupama-FDJ tried everything to prevent a sprint. David Gaudu and Michael Storer showed themselves in the final, but their efforts proved unsuccessful. On the line, only Benoit Cosnefroy was able to stay away from the pack and Attila Valter was the first rider from the team to finish (27th).

The Covid-19 pandemic did not get the better of the Grand Prix cyclistes de Québec et Montréal, which were ready to welcome the world’s top riders this weekend. The first of the two races was as usual in Québec, on a circuit unchanged from the previous editions. It was thirteen kilometres long and to be completed sixteen times. “We knew the race suited the punchers/sprinters”, said Sébastien Joly. “We were counting on our rookie Lewis [Askey], who has made good progress this year, if it was a sprint at the end. We decided to keep him fresh all day and we told him to take it easy. Our other card was David, of course. After his return to racing in Plouay, he starts to get better and better. The overall strategy was to do an aggressive race, and many teams were also motivated to do so because we knew that there were three big teams that could win in the sprint: Jumbo-Visma, BikeExchange-Jayco and Intermarché-Wanty Gobert”. These same three teams actually took the lead of the peloton as soon as a breakaway of five was established, with Sébastien Grignard (Lotto-Soudal), Stan Van Tricht (Quick-Step-Alpha Vinyl), Carson Miles (Canada), Hugo Toumire (Cofidis) and Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) within it.

“The level was still a bit higher”, Sébastien Joly

At the head of the race, the break long enjoyed an advantage of around four minutes, but the gap gradually reduced in the last sixty kilometres. There was barely one minute left forty kilometres from the finish when the attacks started in the bunch. Less than two laps from the finish, the breakaway was first caught by a chasing group, but everything came back together shortly after. On the penultimate lap, the tension clearly increased, and as soon as the hills started again, David Gaudu went for it. The Frenchman managed to get a small gap, then was joined by a handful of riders just before starting the last lap. However, the gap could not really widen over the peloton due to a bad cooperation among the leading men. “When we attacked and followed with David, it almost worked”, said Sébastien. “A move went with fifteen men, but not everyone was interested in making it to the end. It’s a shame because it could have been a nice try.” Everything was then back to normal with ten kilometres to go, but Michael Storer felt another group going, followed it, then took the front alone with seven kilometres remaining. Against a bunch still quite big, the Australian couldn’t however resist and he was caught five kilometres before the finish.

Moments later, Benoît Cosnefroy produced a sharp attack in the last two kilometres and managed to keep a small peloton behind. Attila Valter finished in this first chasing group, in 27th position. “The final was more like we expected, but anyway, we could feel the level was still a bit higher than before”, concluded Sébastien. The group now heads to Montreal, with a recon scheduled this afternoon (Canadian time) before the second Canadian round on Sunday.

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