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Canada, the new world

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Canada, the new world

Québec City is the oldest European settlement in North America. Its historic centre is surrounded by walls and was declared World Heritage by UNESCO. Here the old continent is in the air and the atmosphere is authentically French unlike any other North American city. This is why it’s not surprising that the first road cycling race in the heart of Vieux Québec has become an instant classic of modern road cycling.

PZeroVeloThe Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec was established in 2010 and is already a highlight of the international event calendar. It takes place at the beginning of September, when both the Canadian summer and the cyclist season are coming to an end - and the sunlight over the St. Lawrence River’s bottleneck is ever more indirect. At this time of the year, the peak of Cap Diamant sparkles, which is why the 16th-century explorer Jacques Cartier thought that the stones he had found there contained diamonds. He brought them to France to have them analysed but he was told that the stones were made of quartz - not so precious - hence the expression “fake as a Canadian diamond".

So Cap Diamant was not a diamond mine but it would certainly become a great defensive stronghold for the growing citadel founded by Samuel de Champlain on the remains of an indigenous settlement. Four hundred years on, it has turned into some sort of an amusement park for puncheurs, road cycling’s sprinters. Punchers are road bicycle racers who specialise in short and steep climbs, thus making the difference - and putting on a spectacle - when it comes to show how agile and powerful their explosive sprints are. The GP de Québec was set up to highlight the punchers. Unlike most of the other classical races in calendar, the GP de Québec is not a point-to-point race - where departure and arrival are in two different places - for departure and arrival coincide. Just like a world championship, racers run in a circuit for a given amount of times. The laps on schedule for the 2017 edition are 16, 12 kilometres each, for a total of 201 kilometres. Entirely stretching along the streets of Québec City centre, the final part of the circuit consists of four consecutive climbs (and relevant descents) in quick succession: Côte de la Montagne (375 metres with an average gradient of 10%), Côte de la Potasse (420 metres with an average gradient of 9%), Montée de la Fabrique (190 metres with an average gradient of 7%) and Montée du Fort (1 kilometre with an average gradient of 4%), where both the track and the race end.

At its 7th edition, the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec stands for spectacle of the highest level with a list of legends taking part in it. The first name to be mentioned is that of Thomas Voeckler, followed by two more punchers from the old school: Philippe Gilbert and, especially, Simon Gerrans, the only two-time winner of the classical Canadian race. As evidence of the wide range of opportunities offered by the GP de Québec, climbers Robert Gesing (2013 winner) and Rigoberto Urán (2015 winner) are also among the champions. The power of the GP de Québec - together with the promise of a glorious future - lies in its capacity to attract many of the top road cycling riders. Last but not least, Peter Sagan should me mentioned as some sort of a modern synthesis of all the previously cited names. Last year he was able to forestall Greg Van Avermaet on top of the Montée du Fort whereas the latter still aims at winning the race - which perfectly suits him - for the first time. The chance to achieve this goal is near. On 8 September fun will be guaranteed.

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