Belgian cyclist Greg Van Avermaet wins Montreal Grand Prix

MONTREAL — Belgium's Greg Van Avermaet felt some relief with Sunday's win at the Montreal Grand Prix.

"Winning does not happen too much for me," Van Avermaet said. "I want to enjoy this victory,"

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One last push was all it took for Van Avermaet, as the Belgian rider from CCC Team overtook cyclist Diego Ulissi in the final stretch of the 10th annual Montreal Grand Prix Sunday afternoon.

It’s his first race victory of the year and second ever in Montreal, his last coming in 2016. Van Avermaet finished third in the Quebec event Saturday and he finished third in Montreal last year.

"I knew it would be a close call," Van Avermaet said.

"As the leader of the team, especially (my) team, it’s always nice to have some victories. You doubt a bit that it’ll come, but I've been in great shape over the year. Winning is the most important. So, finally, I got this one. It’s really important for myself and the team."

Van Avermaet and Ulissi were among a pack of riders that overtook French riders Julian Alaphillippe and Benoit Cosnefroy near the end of the race.

Van Avermaet trailed the Italian before launching himself to his side, eventually sidestepping past him into the lead and across the finish line first. Spanish rider Ivan Garcia Cortina placed third.

"I was pretty strong today but Van Avermaet was stronger," Ulissi said. "I started (the sprint) at 200 metres to go. I am happy about my sprint but Van Avermaet was stronger."

Defending Montreal champion Michael Matthews, who repeated as champion at the Quebec City stop Saturday, ended the race in 19th place. The 28-year old became the second rider in tour history to win both the Quebec and Montreal Grands Prix when he accomplished the feat last year.

Four Canadian riders, Charles-Etienne Chretien, Nick Zukowsky, Matteo Dal-Cin, and Ryan Anderson were at the top of the pack in the early stages of the race.

Zukowsky eventually led the breakaway with under 40 kilometres to go before being overtaken. Michael Woods, who raced in the Tour de France, was the top Canadian on the day, finishing the race in eighth place.

"I made some errors in execution on the final sprint. But, still happy with my performance," Woods said. "It’s an honour doing these races. I feel fortunate that we have these races in Canada. These races gave me the experience to move up to the World Tour. They gave me the opportunity to get exposure in the World Tour."

Sunday's race was the final one of Canadian Svein Tuft's career. The 42-year old won the Union Cycliste Internationale America Tour in 2006-07, a two-time National Road Race champion, and 11-time Canadian National Time Trial champion. Tuft didn't finish Sunday's race in Montreal.

Next for the riders will be the 2019 UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire, Great Britain from Sept. 22-29.

"I will see how it will go in two weeks at Worlds," Van Avermaet said. "It's a good course for me and I feel happy about my shape. That's the most important."

Woods added: "I think it's going to play out more like today's race. I think I have a good shot at doing well there."

The next stop on the World Tour is in Italy. The Giro di Lombardia takes place Oct. 12.

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