SPORTS

Australia's Gerrans looks to sweep Quebec, Montreal World Tour races

09/08/2012 05:06 EDT | Updated 11/08/2012 05:12 EST
MONTREAL - Simon Gerrans wants to be the first rider to sweep the Grand Prix Cycliste events in Quebec City and Montreal.

The Australian got it started with a victory in Quebec City and hopes to match that with a win in the 205-kilometre race up and down Mount Royal in central Montreal on Sunday.

"It's achievable," Gerrans said as the teams arrived Saturday after making the jaunt from Quebec City by train. "Some guys have come close in the past.

"If the race pans out well for me, there's no reason I'll be far away from the win. I'll approach it a bit like I approached Quebec, and if I'm there at the end fighting for the win I'll be pretty happy."

It is the third year in operation for the two races, which are the only UCI World Tour events held in North America. Already, two riders have come close to winning the double.

In 2010, Dutchman Robert Gesink finished third in Quebec City and then won in Montreal. Last year, Belgian Philippe Gilbert did the opposite, winning in Quebec City and coming a close third in Montreal behind Rui Costa and Pierrick Fedrigo.

Both Gesink and Gilbert are missing the races this year because they are taking part in the Vuelta, also known as the Tour of Spain.

Gerrans, the Orica-Greenedge leader who is one of the world's hottest riders with wins this year at the Tour Down Under and Milan-San Remo, is up against a number of contenders including Movistar leader Costa, Sky Procycling ace Edvald Boasson Hagen, the 2010 Quebec winner and Europcar star Thomas Voeckler and Slovak Peter Sagan, winner of three Tour de France stages this year for the Liquigas team.

And there is Ryder Hesjedal, the Giro d'Italia champion from Victoria who finished third in Montreal in 2010. Hesjedal, who leads the Garmin-Sharp team, faded on the final lap in Quebec City on Friday as rust showed in his first race since the London Olympics.

Both are circuit races, in which riders complete laps of a course played out through city streets, rather than the classic one-day races that run from one city to another. And they both run up and down hills.

Quebec City's race has several hills with about 3,000 metres of climbing per lap. Montreal has nearly 1,000 metres more climbing, but most of it is in one winding run up Mount Royal.

Gerrans prefers Montreal for two reasons, one being that he is less likely to be involved in a crash.

"I find the Quebec course is quite dangerous," he said. "There's a lot of big holes in the roads there, and there are a lot of corners.

"It makes it a bit dangerous. In Montreal, it's much bigger roads and a more flowing circuit."

The racing is also different. While in both events it pays to wait until near the end to make a move, he said that in Quebec City riders can't afford to bide their time at the back of the peloton because breakaways can happen on any of the short hills or rises.

Another team to watch is SpiderTech, the Canadian-based squad owned and run by Canada's first international cycling star Steve Bauer.

They were the only team to place three riders in the top 25 in Quebec City, with Francois Parisien of Montreal the event's top Canadian in 10th place. Ryan Roth of Cambridge, Ont., was 23rd and Guillaume Boivin of Montreal was 25th.

The 30-year-old Parisien, who won the three-day Tour of Elk Grove this year, is having his best season as a pro after nearly quitting the sport last winter. He admitted this week he suffered from bouts of depression while recovering from a slow-healing knee injury.

Parisien sought help to work on his mental strength and patience during races and has bounced back with a big year.

"I had a bad knee injury and I really hit bottom," he said. "I started from zero and rebuilt as an athlete.

"I have a stronger base now and it's paying off. Mostly, it's being stronger mentally. Staying positive when things go wrong. In Quebec City, I fell on the first lap. In the past, I might have given up. But now I stay calm, don't panic and I got back on the bike. I think the people working with me were happier than I was."

He hopes to do even better at his home race in Montreal.

"All the people cheering for me really gives me wings," he said. "It helps me get over the climbs, that's for sure."

SpiderTech, a Toronto company that makes kinesiology tape to treat sports injuries, inked a three-year sponsorship extension last month and hopes to be the first Canadian team to join the elite World Tour full time as early as next season. The 18 teams in the top group are required to enter squads in all World Tour events, including the big three tours of France, Italy and Spain.

Even Hesjedal, whose team is based in the U.S., can see himself riding for SpiderTech one day.

"You never know what might happen," he said.

MORE:cpSports