The cyclist Hugo Houle was about to fulfill his last dream when he signed the best performance in Quebec in the history of the Tour de France with a superb third place in the 13me stage, this Friday, in Saint-Étienne.
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In the Loire department, even the host’s announcer at the finish line allowed himself to underline his origins by speaking of the Canadian Hugo Houle, “who also represents the beautiful province of Quebec.”
Quebec’s best finish in the Grande Boucle already went to Houle, who finished seventh in the 12me stage in 2020.
It was Mads Pedersen who was stronger in the sprint to win yesterday ahead of Fred Wright and Hugo Houle (in blue on the right).
2019 World Champion Mads Pedersen of Denmark won this 193km stage ahead of Britain’s Fred Wright. The general classification remains unchanged.
No Quebecois has ever won the Grande Boucle and Houle came very close to having his moment of glory in his fourth start. Steve Bauer was the last Canadian to win an individual stage 34 years ago, in 1988.
For several days, Houle said he was in the shape of his life and the extravagant evidence was presented in front of witnesses, at almost 45.6 km/h on average.
Head held high, the Israel-Premier Tech rider confessed that he has no regrets even though such an occasion is extremely rare in his career.
” No regrets “
“When I saw the composition of the breakaway with seven riders, I understood that we had a serious chance for the stage, but the peloton didn’t want to give us a lot of time. With a three-minute lead at the end, I began to believe it. I knew that in the sprint it would be difficult against Padersen. I ran the best I could. I gave it my all and I don’t regret it,” Houle explained.
In the red flame, Houle found himself a bit stuck in front of the other two survivors to start the final sprint. With just 300 meters to go, he was powerless against Pedersen’s incredible burst of speed, which easily took several bike lengths.
Before raising his arms, the Dane even allowed himself to look back three times. Despite an almost perfect race by the Quebecer, the superiority of his opponent was beyond doubt.
A three-way arrival
Houle, 31, was in the pack of seven breakaways leading the race for more than 140km. His lead increased to 3:30, but the peloton refused to give them any more room to manoeuvre. The Lotto-Soudal, Alpecin-Deceuninck and BikeExchange teams also wanted this event, but a crash by Caleb Ewan broke their job.
In the lead, Matteo Jorgenson, Stefan Küng, the 2018 stage winner and Antoine Duchesne’s Groupama-FDJ teammate, as well as two-time time trial world champion Filippo Ganna, fell behind after an attack with 12km to go.
Very strong, Pedersen was without a doubt the most dangerous of the group. At the age of 26 he achieved his first stage victory in the Tour de France.
close to the goal
Since David Veilleux in 2013, the number of Quebecers who have participated in the Tour de France can still be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Moments after this historic performance, even Prime Minister François Legault congratulated the athlete on Twitter.
“I am getting closer to the goal of a victory. That’s what I dreamed of this year. I don’t have the victory at the end, but I’ll try again! concluded the Olympic athlete from Sainte-Perpétue, in the Centre-du-Québec region.
♦ Hugo Houle’s teammates Guillaume Boivin and Michael Woods ranked 17thme and 97methis Friday, while Duchesne finished 63me.
♦ In 2010, Canadian Ryder Hesjedal took fourth place in the third stage of the Tour de France, as well as fourth place in the 17me stage at the top of the Tourmalet. He also finished sixth overall.
General classification after 13 stages
1. jonas vingegaard (DEN/Jumbo) 50:47:34
two. Tadej Pogacar (SLO/UAE) at 2:22
3. Geraint Thomas (GBR/INE) at 2:26
Four. Romain Bardet (FRA/DSM) at 2:35
5. Adam Yates (GBR/INE) at 3:44
6. Nairobi Quintana (COL/ARC) at 3:58
7. david gaudu (FRA/GFJ) at 4:07
8. thomas pidcock (GBR/INE) at 7:39
9. Enrique More (ESP/MOV) at 9:32
10 Alexander Vlasov (RUS/BOR) at 10:06
35. Hugo Houle (CAN/ISR) at 1:06:09
62. miguel woods (CAN/ISR) at 1:30:41 a.m.
91. Antoine Duchesne (CAN/GFJ) at 2:01:49 a.m.
134. William Bovin (CAN/ISR) at 2:36:34
Other opportunities to take advantage of
From a distance, Hugo Houle’s family and loved ones believe he will soon have another chance to make history.
After years of playing the important role of a model teammate, the Quebec rider is increasingly establishing himself as a leader and road captain for his new Israel-Premier Tech lineup, leaving him plenty of room to move forward.
Equipped with a tablet to follow the action, his parents were in Montreal at a clinic.
“We managed to see the end. I forgot to charge the battery! We turn around a bit. It was really beautiful. He will try again because he still has one step to take, ”said his mother, Diane Allard.
“At first, I didn’t think the breakaway would go all the way. He will be able to recover,” added his father, Yvon Houle, shortly after a brief call from the champion.
“Our heart was there”
Race logistics, daily travel and COVID-19 restrictions mean family and friends are less present at the world’s biggest race.
Some riders who have children sometimes spend a few minutes with them after a stage, but usually nothing more.
The Tour de France is not like a tennis tournament that takes place in the same stadium for 10 days.
“We got used to it. Our heart was there,” concludes his mother.
” Awesome “
In Monaco, the 31-year-old athlete’s wife had a client to see for her work as an accountant at KPMG, but took an enforced break to watch the battle.
“The connection was bad and I had to find a place to get images. You should not miss the best day of your life! It was impressive, and I am very proud. He has said for a long time that he feels good and this is by far his best season,” said Stéphanie Matteau, who participates in half-Ironman triathlons.
Even if you chose to live in Europe, you can’t be around events very often.
“I’m going to finish the Tour, but every year it’s pretty much the only thing I do. It’s hard sometimes not being there”, says the young woman.
years of effort
Nearby Quebec, businessman Louis Garneau, who has supported Houle since adolescence, also nearly died three times in front of his screen.
“My internet went down less than a kilometer away! I held my cross so tight. He had a perfect run. He is the fittest in his team and has become a great runner. He worked very hard,” the former Olympian said.
souvenirs from Africa
From the age of 16, Houle sometimes traveled to Lac-Saint-Joseph, near Quebec, to train with Louis Garneau’s eldest son, William.
In 2008, the two youngsters, then 18, represented Canada together at the World Junior Championships in South Africa. In the results of the moment, we note the names of future stars such as Peter Sagan, Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet.
“He’s about to win one. He’s one of the best runners in the bunch right now. He’s got a worked hard and it’s all in your favor. She has increased the notoriety of her and may continue until she is 35 years old…maybe more. The best is yet to come,” says Mr. Garneau.
Excluding the next two days in the Pyrenees, the time trial during the 20me stage and the finish line on the Champs Elysées, there are still around four more stages to go for another stunt by Houle.
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