The two Canadian races were celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, drawing large crowds and many of the top classics racers to compete on back-to-back challenging courses. The Montreal race is the tougher of the two, covering a 220km distance and more than 4,700 feet of climbing. Van Avermaet, who also won here in 2016, was up to the challenge.
“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,” said Van Avermaet, who rode his TCR Advanced SL with a CADEX WheelSystem. “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.”
A five-man breakaway escaped early in the day, gaining a lead of more than 10 minutes before the peloton began to eat away at their advantage in the second half of the race, which lasted more than six hours. A flurry of attacks was launched in the final three laps of the 12.2km circuit, but it wasn’t until the final lap when the decisive moves were made.
Ultimately, a select front group of about 20 riders came together heading into the final kilometer, and Van Avermaet played the finish to perfection.
“I knew it would be a close call to bring [Julian] Alaphilippe back,” Van Avermaet said. “I tried to bridge to [Tim] Wellens on the last climb, but it was all stretched out with small gaps and luckily everything came back.”
At that point, Van Avermaet launched his sprint, coming around Diego Ulissi and Ivan Garcia Cortina to take the win.
“I was close in the spring, close in the Tour de France, and I was second in San Sebastian,” he said. “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. I was feeling it was coming but you always have to finish it off.”
Looking ahead at the World Championships, Van Avermaet said: “I think it’s a good course for me and I’m happy with my shape, that’s the most important.”