UAE Team Emirates’ Diego Ulissi claimed a stunning victory at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal on Sunday following a hectic sprint that saw him cross the finish line just ahead of Jesus Herrada (Movistar) and Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale-Drapac).
Ulissi, together with team-mate Marco Marcato, made sure that he was part of a breakaway that began on the penultimate lap of the top tier UCI WorldTour race.
That breakaway was then whittled down to just six remaining riders by the time the race approached the last curve of the final uphill stretch, where Ulissi out-sprinted his rivals to seal a famous win.
Commenting on his win, Ulissi said: “I’m really very happy with this victory. After the Tour de France I continued working hard because I really wanted to try and win this race, which is particularly suited to my skills. Last year I finished third behind Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe).
“This year I told myself that if I arrived with them then there was no chance I could win, so I decided to race on the attack. My teammates were fantastic, especially Marcato and Conti, who worked the flanks and looked out for any adversaries, helping me to push to the limit in the main break. Sometimes to win you have to risk losing it all, and I was determined to achieve success today.”
The race was Ulissi’s second in Canada this season, with the Italian having already earned a creditable 11th place at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec on September 8.
Both one day races are part of the top tier of road racing, the UCI WorldTour, and, unlike most Classics, they are both long circuit races, with the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec totalling a distance of 200km and the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal 205.7km.
Together, they represented the final opportunity for top riders to get some competitive racing under their belts ahead of the World Cycling Championships which take place in Bergen, Norway from September 17-24.
Riding alongside UAE Team Emirates’ Ulissi at both races were Valerio Conti, Kristijan Durasek, Vegard Stake Laengen, Marco Marcato, Simone Petilli, Edward Ravasi and Ben Swift.
Chris Froome has become just the third man to win the Tour de France and La Vuelta in the same year, and the first since the Vuelta moved from the early part of the season to the latter in 1995.
In almost a carbon copy of his fourth Tour de France win earlier this year, Froome built an early lead in Spain and Team Sky were able to fend off the attacks of his rivals to see it home, with Froome able to extend his advantage on the penultimate stage.
Despite only a 27-day gap between the end of the Tour and start of the Vuelta, Froome proved too strong for his rivals and joined the company of Frenchmen Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault as Vuelta-Tour winners in the same year.
Here are the men Froome has joined in this piece of cycling history.
Anquetil’s chances of the first Vuelta-Tour double ended in 1962 when he pulled out of the Spanish race two days before its finish after losing to team-mate Rudi Altig in the final time trial.
But his wait would only last 12 months as, in 1963, he completed the feat no man before him could accomplish.
Anquetil, or ‘Monsieur Chrono’ as he became known, was the first man to win the double in the same year as just a couple of months later he would go on to win his fourth Tour crown.
The 1963 Vuelta course played right into the Frenchman’s hands, with only four first-category mountains and an opening time trial, his speciality.
It was the mountainous Tour later that summer which would provide a stiffer test of Anquetil’s ability as a climber, though he was able to hold off competition from Spanish rider Federico Bahamontes to take the yellow jersey.
Anquetil would not conquer the Spanish terrain again but he won the Tour again in 1964 and jointly holds the record of five Tour wins alongside Hinault, Eddy Merckx, and Miguel Indurain.
In addition to his five Tour wins and one Vuelta crown, Anquetil also won the Giro d’Italia twice, making him one of six men to have won all three grand tours to date, with Merckx, Hinault, Felice Gimondi, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali the others.
‘The Badger’ needed little time to follow his compatriot in doing the double, completing the feat at the first attempt aged just 23 in 1978.
However, his Vuelta win was tinged with a little controversy, as the final stage was cancelled after riders had been pelted with debris and rocks and nails were spread over the roads as part of the fight for Basque independence.
Hinault held the Vuelta lead for three days after the opening prologue, then took it back with victory on stage 11b and carried it home.
He would leave his Tour victory late. He entered the stage 20 time trial 14 seconds behind Dutch rider Joop Zoetemelk, but soon wiped that out and would end the race with a winning margin of almost four minutes.
Hinault would also win the Vuelta in 1983 and finished his career with five Tour crowns, those two Vueltas and three Giro d’Italia victories.
Chris Froome did not need victory in La Vuelta to put his name in the history books, but by winning Spain’s grand tour he has opened up a whole new chapter.
The four-time Tour de France winner has become the first man to win the Tour and the Vuelta in the same year since 1978 – back when the Vuelta was still raced in the early part of the season – and the first man to win consecutive grand tours in the same season since Marco Pantani’s Giro d’Italia-Tour double in 1998.
Froome is Britain’s first ever winner in the Vuelta, and the first Briton to win a grand tour other than the Tour de France.
If Team Sky and Froome have been criticised for putting all their eggs in the Tour basket each year, this victory shows he and they can not only build grand tour-winning form but sustain it.
The Vuelta perhaps ranks third out of the three grand tours in stature, but its reputation has grown immensely in recent years as each season it boasts stronger line-ups.
Riders may start the season targeting either the Giro or the Tour, but most seem to end up fighting it out in the Vuelta.
Froome himself has a long history with a race he has finished in second place three times.
Known as a late bloomer, his career was 12 seconds away from receiving a kick-start when he was a close runner-up in 2011.
He was an accidental contender, having only made Sky’s line-up as a late replacement for Lars Petter Nordhaug and racing in the service of Bradley Wiggins, before taking the red jersey with a shock performance in the time trial.
He would be beaten by another outsider, Juan Jose Cobo, but only after a moment’s hesitation on stage 15 as Wiggins cracked on the Angliru – the same climb where Froome effectively wrapped up his victory this year.
He was back 12 months later, finishing fourth after emptying himself in support of Wiggins in the Tour de France, but the Vuelta then took a back seat as Froome turned his own attention to the Tour.
But he rode again in 2014 after crashing in France, and after finishing second to Alberto Contador by 70 seconds he was not only impressed with how the Vuelta teed him up for the winter but intrigued by how competitive he could be.
Another second place to Nairo Quintana 12 months ago further convinced him he could win in Spain without compromising the Tour, and this year he has proved it.
While others’ bids to win consecutive grand tours of late have fallen short – notably the Giro-Tour double attempts of Contador in 2015 and Quintana this year – Froome has delivered where others could not.
It deserves to be recognised as a truly brilliant sporting accomplishment, though in keeping with Froome’s understated personality it will probably go under the radar at home.
— Chris Froome (@chrisfroome) September 10, 2017
Froome was deeply impressive in the way he was able to hold off Vincenzo Nibali – who should have been well-rested since his exertions in the Giro in May.
Key again was the depth of Team Sky, who were able to send another star-studded support squad less than four weeks after the end of the Tour, and turning in one of the best overall team performances in years to control this race over mountainous terrain.
Froome now has decisions to make about where he goes next. There is no question that the Tour still matters the most. His victory in July left him one shy of the all-time record of five victories – jointly held by Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Jacques Anquetil and Miguel Indurain.
But Froome will also be aware that victory in the Giro – a race he has not started since 2010 – would make him only the seventh man in history to have won all three Grand Tours.
Received wisdom – and the recent evidence from riders such as Contador and Quintana – suggest the Giro-Tour double is all but impossible in the modern age – but Froome has given himself an enviable choice when it comes to the next chapter he wants to write.
Provided by Press Association Sport