(Paris) Two seconds after yellow jersey Jonas Vingegaard, Wout van Aert and the rest of the Jumbo-Visma fleet, Hugo Houle and Antoine Duchesne crossed the finish line together in 21st.e and the last stage of the Tour de France, Sunday in Paris.
Published on July 24
After another sweltering day, the sun was finally setting on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Swell finished 88the and Duchesne, 86e of the stage won by the Belgian Jasper Philipsen. It was no accident.
At the end of a Great Loop where he was shining with all his fire, Houle wanted to give way to his friend on the wire, thus awarding him the unofficial title of best Canadian and Quebecer on stage, which made them laugh .
“I let him win today, I had to wait him out,” Houle laughed.
“The yellow shirt got in our face! replied Duchesne, laughing. For once, Hugo got up to let me pass him…
Unfortunately, his compatriots Guillaume Boivin and Michael Woods were unable to join the “fight”. Both Israel-Premier Tech (IPT) drivers had to retire before the start. The first was sick, the second infected with COVID-19.
It was the small shadow of this joyous day for cycling in Quebec and Canada.
Obviously, all eyes were on Houle, the big hero with his historic victory in Foix on Tuesday and third place a few days earlier in Saint-Étienne. In the general classification, he finished 24the place, a peak for a Quebecer.
The Sainte-Perpétue native was greeted with a standing ovation in the VIP tent of the Israeli-Canadian lineup. After receiving congratulations from owner Sylvan Adams, he turned to his lover Stephanie Matteau, who hadn’t seen him in a month. Their reunion took place under everyone’s gaze…
“You look tired,” she said, watching her boyfriend’s haggard face as they all set off down the world’s most famous avenue.
“When you go into the Camps, it’s always the conclusion of three weeks of hard work,” Houle explained. It’s still a relief. We saw it again today: until you’re in Paris, you’re not in Paris. With Guillaume and Mike dropping out, you realize even more how lucky you are when you finish the Tour. I wish they were with us. It’s clear that it spoils the party a bit. »
In his fourth experience on the Champs-Élysées since 2019, Houle at least got to share the day with Duchesne, his former roommate returning to the Tour after a six-year absence.
“It was a beautiful moment. Antoine was very relieved to have an excellent level in this Tour. He was very, very strong. It doesn’t necessarily show, he does his job as a teammate, but he also had a great Tour. Let’s talk a lot from me, but Antoine had a good Tour. I was happy for him.”
Duchesne contributed to teammate David Gaudu’s fourth-place finish. Only Vingegaard, Tadej Pogačar (United Arab Emirates) and Geraint Thomas (Ineos) beat him.
The French returned the favor to Quebec by placing him at the front of the field after entering the Champs Elysees circuit, packed with spectators, including many Danes who had made the trip to cheer on the yellow jersey.
Not without effort, Duchesne then managed to take off, accompanied by his teammate Olivier Le Gac and three other pilots.
“Often, the break comes early in the Camps, but like this year’s Tour, it was the hardest to catch! “, said the native of Saguenay, who was one of the last three to resist the hyenas of the peloton launched at more than 60 km/h.
The young Philipsen (Alpecin) won in the sprint to sign his second victory in the Tour. He beat the Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange) and the Norwegian Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché).
“The best Tour he could do”
After the official celebrations, Houle rode his bike back to the team’s coach, in Plaça de la Concordia. His companion followed him on foot.
“It’s the only one I normally attend,” Stéphanie Matteau said. It’s a great day and it’s great to see them do several laps. This year, it was even more exciting to wait for him at the finish line. »
An employee of KPMG in Monaco, the accountant by training could not be present during her spouse’s success in Foix. He only spent a few minutes on the phone.
I admit that day, I wish I could have been there at the finish line to feel the joy he had when he won. But even from a distance, I could experience his victory a little with him.
Stéphanie Matteau, spouse of Hugo Houle
The Groupama-FDJ bus was the first to enter the paddock. Boss Marc Madiot raised the cup to Belgian Philippe Gilbert, “the greatest classic rider in the world”, who was competing in his last Tour at the age of 40.
In a corner, Chloé Rochette, Antoine Duchesne’s wife, was cooing over Jules, the couple’s 3-month-old baby. How did he react when he saw his father who had been gone since the end of June? “He smiled, but he smiles at everyone, so it’s pretty easy!” he recounted.
Antoine got off the bus to pose with his little family. At the same time, his parents and two sisters emerged from the crowd to join in the fun.
Her sister Sarah-Ann had lost her voice from screaming. His father Marc had climbed a pole to be able to see his son during the escape.
“It is the best Tour he has been able to do, praised Mr. Duchesne. We have never seen him go so far in the passes to accompany David. He’s not a climber, we know that. »
He gave 150%, it was very impressive.
Marc Duchesne, father of Antoine Duchesne
On the Israel-Premier Tech bus, Steve Bauer, patriarch of cycling and Canada’s sporting director, reached into the fridge to offer a cold beer to the representative of the pressexcited by the level Houle has reached this year.
The main stakeholder rejected the one handed to him by a friend. “I prefer wine,” justified Houle, who is obviously not kidding when he says he wanted to do well at the Arctic Tour in Norway, in two weeks’ time.
Houle reconnected with Louis Garneau, a longtime patron who came to greet him in Paris. It was the Quebec businessman who gave him a cross in memory of his brother who died tragically in 2012. He himself wears a reduced model around his neck.
Houle will not return to the country before the Quebec and Montreal Grand Prix Cyclistes on September 9 and 11.
“I will have time to decide,” he said, unable to measure the new notoriety he had just achieved in his native province.
“It will make me happy to be here. The Grands Prix have been working for years to democratize cycling in Quebec. If I have helped and am part of the push, so much the better. That said, I really did it for my personal convictions, which push me to overcome.”
Around 9pm, it was still light in Paris. Houle continued to respond to the smallest requests: a selfie here, a photo with a guy there. There was still a team dinner scheduled. No rest for the Tour de France warriors.