Canada's Michael Woods headlines 2023 Montreal Grand Prix cycling race

MONTREAL — Tour de France stage winner Michael Woods will headline 2023 Montreal Grand Prix cycling race on Sunday.

A total of 161 competitors representing 23 teams are set to wind their way around iconic Mount Royal to wrap up a 430-kilometre event that also included Friday's race in Quebec City.

Woods, who's from Ottawa, will be joined by the likes of rising star Arnaud De Lie. The 21-year-old Belgian took first in the provincial capital Friday, winning the 201.6-kilometre race in a time of four hours 47 minutes 39 seconds for his first-ever WorldTour win.

Also slated to take part Sunday is Hugo Houle of Sainte-Perpetue, Que. Both Woods and Houle race for the Israel-Premier Tech team, which is led by director Steve Bauer — the first Canadian to win a Tour stage back in 1988.

Montreal was recently given the the UCI Bike City label — a designation that rewards cities and regions that, in addition to hosting major events on the UCI International Calendar, invest in the development and promotion of cycling.

The city will host the 2026 UCI Road World Championships.

"I'm proud to say that this event will be held in Montreal, because Montreal loves cycling," Valerie Plante, the city's mayor, said Saturday. "We always have, and we show that every day through the number of citizens who use cycling as a way to relax, to stay active and even to get to work and school.

"It's definitely a great point of pride for us."

Slated to kick off in the week following the 2026 Grand Prix Cycliste, the eight-day road worlds will see over 1,000 of the top cyclists take to Montreal sites, including Parc Jeanne-Mance, the Olympic Stadium, Parc Jean-Drapeau and the city's Old Port.

The event, which will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the 1976 Olympic Games, will be specially designed to share the city's Games heritage to those watching around the world.

"Our young people will always need role models who can provide them with inspiration and courage to shine in competition or simply to achieve new personal bests," Quebec sports minister Isabelle Charest said.

"At the UCI Road World Championships in 2026, just as in Quebec City and Montreal this weekend, they will get an up-close and personal look at phenomenal athletes who have made sport and the pursuit of excellence their life's mission."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 9, 2023.

Ireland Compton, The Canadian Press