Chris Froome (Sky Procycling), the UCI WorldTour number one-ranked rider, is poised to make his return to racing in cyclingâ€™s top league at the Grand Prix Cycliste de QuÃ©bec and the Grand Prix Cycliste de MontrÃ©al, on September 13th and September 15th.
Froome has been racing in the United States after the Tour de France, but he will make his return to participating at UCI WorldTour level in Canadaâ€™s two top-ranked bike races.
Both of the courses will be to Froomeâ€™s liking. The Grand Prix Cycliste de QuÃ©bec, on September 13th, is particularly suited to climbers and those capable of accelerating away on short, steep ascents. The 201.6 kilometre course consists of 16 laps of a 12.6 kilometre circuit, with a hill-top finish in QuÃ©becâ€™s beautiful old quarter.
Two days later, the Grand Prix Cycliste de MontreÃ¡l is equally hilly, with a 12.1 kilometre circuit of 17 laps on the challenging climbs of the Mont-Royal park. As a â€˜sporting revengeâ€™ match for those who missed out in QuÃ©bec, then, MontrÃ©al offers promising terrain.
As the UCI WorldTour moves into its final leg, competition amongst the 19 ProTeams present in the Canadian races looks set to be exceptionally fierce. For Froome, in particular, the two races represent an excellent chance for him to take an unbreakable lead in the UCI WorldTourâ€™s individual rankings. But he will not have it easy.
The British rider currently has 587 points, nearly 200 more than his closet pursuer Peter Sagan (Cannondale ProCycling) who has 407. However, Saganâ€™s ability in Classics with difficult finishes is well-documented, and the Slovakian will be looking to close the gap on Froome both in QuÃ©bec and MontrÃ©al.
Other riders further down the UCI WorldTour individual ranking could well be equally dangerous for Froome in his quest to add another title to his bulging palmares. Former 2013 UCI WorldTour leader and Sky rider Richie Porte, currently ranked seventh, could create a formidable attacking tandem with team-mate Froome and Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), twelfth overall in the UCI rankings, is also expected to shine in his maiden participation in the Canadian Classics.
Other riders from further down the UCI WorldTourâ€™s top 20 individual rankings down to race in Canada include Tour de Suisse winner Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Movistar), third in QuÃ©bec and eighth in MontrÃ©al last year, Simon Spilak (Katusha), Omega Pharma - Quick-Step team-mates Sylvain Chavanel and Michel Kwiatkowski and Orica-GreenEdgeâ€™s Pieter Weening.
All in all, the two Canadian rounds of the UCI WorldTour look set to produce a thrilling battle - both for the right to take a prestigious triumph, and to continue the ongoing battle for supremacy in the UCIâ€™s rankings.
There can be no doubt that Froome starts as a top favourite and from a position of strength. But on the difficult terrain Froome will find in both the Grand Prix Cycliste de QuÃ©bec and the Grand Prix Cycliste de MontrÃ©al, and with riders of the ilk of Peter Sagan (Cannondale ProCycling) waiting in the wings to usurp Froomeâ€™s grasp on the UCI WorldTourâ€™s crown, there can be no margin for error on the Britonâ€™s part. Watch this space.
Interview with Chris Froome