Lars-Petter Nordhaug claimed Team Sky’s 100th UCI victory with an absolutely storming display at the GP de Montreal.
The 28-year-old Norwegian split the peloton to shreds when he set a blistering pace up a climb inside the final 10km, and then chipped off the front with 4km remaining.
A three-man group containing Moreno Moser (Liquigas), Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) and Björn Leukemans (Vacansoleil) temporarily pegged him back as the race reached its conclusion, but in the last 150m, Nordhaug kicked again and battled on to seal his victory by several bike lengths.
Moser and Kolobnev took the two remaining spots on the podium, with Edvald Boasson Hagen racing home in fifth to cap a dominant team display.
Immediately after the race a delighted Nordhaug said: “That was incredible. I was riding for Edvald originally because we thought it was going to come down to a sprint. I just tried to sit on the front to cover the counter-attacks, but felt so strong in those last 4km that I just rolled off alone.
“When I saw those three guys were coming I waited a bit and then joined them. I didn’t think I would take the sprint because the other guys in that group were very fast, but I just had unbelievable legs today, so to win was fantastic.
“I only realised I’d won inside the last 30m. I’m really pleased because I’ve taken some big steps this year and had two victories already. To win this race though is the biggest thing I’ve ever done.
“As a team, we’re having an unbelievable season and it’s good to have been a part of that success. Winning the Tour de France gave us all motivation and everybody’s been riding well all year long.”
The second race of the Canadian double-header had got off to a brisk start with Salvatore Puccio one of many riders to try their hand off the front before Manuele Boaro (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), Cyril Gautier (Europcar) and Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel) made their move stick on the third of seventeen, 12.1km laps.
Simone Ponzi (Astana) and Kristjan Koren (Liquigas) also tried to bridge that gap, but it was a feat they would never achieve, and when the leaders’ advantage had stretched to almost seven minutes, various teams took their turn on the front to reel them back in.
Boaro was the first of those breakaway riders to fall off the pace, but his two accomplices would also be thwarted within 25km of the finish line after a gradual and sustained pursuit.
When everything came back together, Team Sky were well positioned towards the front of the bunch and Boasson Hagen was well marshalled by team-mates.
After witnessing various failed attacks, Nordhaug produced his first decisive burst inside the last 11km, and then went again as the race neared its conclusion.
His days had initially looked numbered when he was caught by Moser, Kolobnev and Björn Leukemans, but Nordhaug bided his time at the back of the quartet and then produced a brilliant turn of speed to overhaul a last-gasp move from Kolobnev before wrapping up the first WorldTour win of his career - and a landmark result for Team Sky.
After the race, Sports Director Steven de Jongh was delighted by his riders’ performance, and admitted both Nordhaug and Boasson Hagen were coming into form at just the right time to make a determined challenge for the rainbow jersey in Limburg on 23 September.
He told us: “It was a really good performance by both those guys today, and the team as a whole. Puccio had a go to get into the move early on, but when those three riders went away we didn’t have any interest in chasing them down. We let the other teams do the work, and when it all came back together, we were active again.
“Lars-Petter had been feeling good in Quebec, and was strong again today, and he’s shown out there he’s a world-class rider. Edvald was right up there too, and although he got sick on Friday, he’s also shown he’s in great form and the two of them could be right up there at the World Championships.”
And on Team Sky’s 100th win, De Jongh added: “To reach a century of wins is a great landmark for the team and the fact that it’s happened in less than three seasons is fantastic.
“We had a difficult first year, but since the second part of last year we have won a lot of races and really been on a roll. It’s great to see, and great to have been part of. It’s been a really good trip here too, so we’re all very happy.”