Just nine years after Quebec’s first appearance on the Tour de France, a cyclist born in a country of snow and ice made history this Tuesday by winning a stage of the world’s largest race.
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Hugo Houle could not have imagined such a perfect scenario. The 31-year-old athlete chose the 109th Tour de France to sign his first professional victory on the world circuit during this 16th stage, 178.5 kilometers between Carcassonne and Foix, in the Ariège.
Hugo Houle wrote a page of history on Tuesday becoming the first Quebecer to win a stage of the Tour de France.
In addition, the cyclist made his dream come true in the most beautiful way possible. Alone, after an attack 38 km from the finish, he was able to take advantage of the time to savor his moment of glory with an arm raised in the sky in memory of his brother who died in 2012.
In France, the chain’s commentator shouted with emotion.
“That’s wonderful. Pedal for two today!”
- Listen to Vincent Dessureault’s interview with Jean-François Racine, a journalist for the Journal de Montréal on QUB radio:
“The right place”
“I never win a race, I guess this is the right place to do it,” Houle joked in his first interview for the international network.
“I had a dream. Winning a stage for my brother who died when I became a professional. This victory is for him. I waited 10-12 years for that and today [mardi] I had my victory for him. It’s amazing, “he added, with tears in his eyes.
Michael Woods and Hugo Houle, moments after the 16th stage of the Tour de France.
Four days after a magnificent third place finish on the 13th stage on Friday, Houle had not said his last word. The day after the last rest day of the Grande Boucle, he still had the resources to go on the attack with 28 more runners. In the Pyrenees, the group crossed the Mur de Péguère in the final, a “hump” of 9.3 km at 8%.
Bold and resilient, Houle set off alone just under 40km from the finish line to secure his first victory outside the Canadian championships. With only thirty seconds left, the American Matteo Jorgenson did try to catch up, but a sharp fall on the hot asphalt opened the door to Quebecers who never looked back.
At the wheel of the unfortunate on the ground, Michael Woods, Houle’s teammate, averted tragedy before taking third place on the stage behind Frenchman Valentin Madouas.
The second Canadian
Houle becomes the second Canadian winner in Tour de France history after Steve Bauer in 1988, its sporting director on the Israel-Premier Tech team.
Focused on making no mistake, the champion of the day began to believe in it only in the last moments. We could see him holding the cross offered to him by Louis Garneau and blessed by the late Fr. Boulé, former director of the Séminaire Saint-François.
“With a minute to go and 5 km, I was sure I could win. It was the best place to do it! At first, when I walked in, it was a bit of setting the table for Michael Woods and I did a little naive. After the very steep neck, I knew there was still a lot of descent. I suffered about ten miles to resist the hunt and I got it, ”he said Register.
Ontarian Michael Woods, who took third place on the podium on Tuesday, congratulated Houle, his teammate at Israel-Premier Tech. It is the first time two Canadians have finished in the top 3 of a stage of the Grande Boucle.
He reiterated the many years of work it took him to live this immense joy.
“Many have asked about my story. I thought about my brother on the last mile and it was a lot of emotions. It was my dream. I did it for myself and I’m very happy,” he concluded, refusing to speculate. about their role in the future.
- The general classification remains unchanged. Despite the attacks of Tadej Pogacar, Jonas Vingegaard remains yellow. Romain Bardet, however, fell to ninth place.
Bauer led Houle to victory
Although the two men have known each other for a long time, now a very special new bond will unite Hugo Houle and former champion Steve Bauer.
As sporting director, the only Canadian to have won a stage in the Tour de France led Quebecers to victory on Tuesday, 34 years after his, blowing all the useful information into his headset.
In the next car at Israel-Premier Tech, we felt very nervous. Under the red flame, Bauer was still trying to calm things down.
“No mistake, no mistake!” You have it in your pocket “, we heard followed by a long silence and finally …
“You got it! You get it, Houle Champion!” He shouted at the screams, tears, and his glasses flying in all directions aboard the vehicle.
The two men first met on the now defunct Canadian SpiderTech team 10 years ago. After a short stint at CCC, Bauer briefly joined Houle in Astana, then the duet ended at Israel-Premier Tech.
A perfect race
“It was very emotional and stressful to see him alone. It was a perfect race with [MIchael] Forests. He won like a true champion, ”the 63-year-old Ontarian explained in a still very decent Frenchman.
The task of orienting the runner is not easy. You need to find the right words when the cyclist suffers.
“You have to give detailed information, course instructions, but also a little tactics and encouragement. It has a length of 30 km. I gave in the gaps and told him to strive for victory, “the former yellow jersey added.
And since this coronation is often the most beautiful feat of arms of a career, Bauer whispered in his ear to savor the moment.
“I told him to enjoy the moment. Of course, I shouted many words that I will not repeat! He deserved it. For young people in the country it is not easy to become a cyclist and I hope it inspires them. Hugo is a very good mentor. »
A united team
For his part, the main stakeholder has said he is happy to live the best day of his life with a group he has been with for more than a decade.
“It makes this moment even crazier to live this with guys I know well, with a gang from home,” Houle said, referring to his Quebec colleagues, but also to the entire Canadian structure surrounding his formation.