Cyclist Hugo Houle almost achieved his ultimate dream by signing the best performance in Quebec in the history of the Tour de France with a superb third place in the 13e stage, this Friday, in Saint-Étienne.
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In the Loire department, even the house announcer at the finish line took the liberty of underlining his origins by speaking of the Canadian Hugo Houle, “who also represents the beautiful province of Quebec”.
The best Quebec result in the Grande Boucle already went to Houle, who finished seventh in the 12e 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).
The 2019 world champion, Dane Mads Pedersen, won this 193 kilometer stage ahead of Briton Fred Wright. The general classification remains unchanged.
No Quebecer has ever won the Grande Boucle and Houle was very close to having his moment of glory in his fourth participation. 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 flamboyant evidence was presented in front of witnesses, at nearly 45.6 km / h on average.
With his head held high, the Israel-Premier Tech cyclist confessed that he had no regrets even though such an occasion is extremely rare in a 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 much time. With a three minute lead at the end, I started to believe it. I knew that in the sprint it would be complicated against Padersen. I ran the best way I could. I gave it my all and I have no regrets,” Houle explained.
At the red flame, Houle found himself a bit stuck in front of the other two survivors to start the final sprint. With only 300 meters to go, he couldn’t do anything against Pedersen’s incredible burst of speed, which easily took several bike lengths.
Before raising his arms, the Dane even allowed himself to look behind him three times. Despite an almost perfect race from the Quebecer, the superiority of his opponent was beyond doubt.
A three-way arrival
Houle, 31, was in the group of seven runaways leading the race for more than 140 km. Their lead grew to 3:30, but the peloton refused to give them any more leeway. The Lotto-Soudal, Alpecin-Deceuninck and BikeExchange teams also wanted this event, but a fall by Caleb Ewan broke their work.
At the front, Matteo Jorgenson, Stefan Küng, stage winner in 2018 and teammate of Antoine Duchesne at Groupama-FDJ, as well as Filippo Ganna, double world champion in the time trial, were left behind after an attack with 12 km to go.
Very strong, Pedersen was undoubtedly the most dangerous of the group. At 26, he won his first stage victory in the Tour de France.
close to the goal
Since David Veilleux in 2013, 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’m getting closer to the objective of a victory. That’s what I dreamed of this year. I don’t have the victory at the end, but I will try again! concluded the Olympic athlete from Sainte-Perpétue, in the Centre-du-Québec region.
♦ Teammates of Hugo Houle, Guillaume Boivin and Michael Woods ranked 17the and 97ethis Friday, while Duchesne finished 63e.
♦ In 2010, Canadian Ryder Hesjedal took fourth place in the third stage of the Tour de France, as well as fourth place in the 17e 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
2. Tadej Pogacar (SLO/UAE) at 2:22
3. Geraint Thomas (GBR/INE) at 2:26
4. Romain Bardet (FRA/DSM) at 2:35
5. Adam Yates (GBR/INE) at 3:44
6. Nairobi Quintana (COL/ARK) at 3:58
7. david gaudu (FRA/GFJ) at 4:07
8. Thomas Pidcock (GBR/INE) at 7:39
9. Enric Mas (ESP/MOV) at 9:32
10. Alexander Vlasov (RUS/BOR) at 10:06
35. Hugo Houle (CAN/ISR) at 1:06:09
62. Michael Woods (CAN/ISR) at 1:30:41 a.m.
91. Antoine Duchesne (CAN/GFJ) at 2:01:49 a.m.
134. Guillaume Boivin (CAN/ISR) at 2:36:34
Other opportunities to seize
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 cyclist is increasingly establishing himself as a leader and road captain for his new Israel-Premier Tech formation, which leaves him plenty of leeway to move on. ‘offensive.
Equipped with a tablet to follow the action, his parents were in Montreal in a clinic.
“We managed to see the end. I forgot to charge the battery! We flipped a bit. It was really beautiful. He will try again because he still has a 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 that family and friends are less present on the biggest race in the world.
Some runners who have children sometimes spend a few minutes with them after a stage, but generally nothing more.
The Tour de France is not like a tennis tournament that takes place in the same stadium for 10 days.
” We get used to it. Our heart was there, ”concludes his mother.
” Impressive “
In Monaco, the 31-year-old longtime athlete’s wife had a client to see for her job as an accountant at KPMG, but she took a forced break to watch the battle.
“The connection was bad and I had to find a place to get visuals. You shouldn’t miss your best day ever! It was impressive, and I’m really proud. For a long time, he says he feels good, and this is by far his best season,” said Stéphanie Matteau, who takes part in half-Ironman triathlons.
Even if she chose to live in Europe, she cannot be present very often on the events.
“I’m going to go to the finish of the Tour, but every year it’s practically the only thing I do. It’s hard sometimes not to be there, ”says the young woman.
years of effort
Near Quebec, businessman Louis Garneau, who has supported Houle since adolescence, also nearly died three times in front of his screen.
“My internet dropped less than a kilometer away! I held my cross so tight. He had a perfect race. He’s the fittest of his team and he’s become a great runner. He worked so hard,” said the former Olympian.
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 young men, then 18 years old, represented Canada together at the Junior World Championship in South Africa. On the results of the time, we notice the names of future stars like Peter Sagan, Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet.
“He’s about to win one. He’s one of the best riders in the peloton right now. He has one job lasts and it is all to his credit. It has just increased its notoriety and it can continue until 35 years… maybe more. The best is yet to come,” says Mr. Garneau.
Excluding the next two days in the Pyrenees, the time trial during the 20e stage and the finish on the Champs-Élysées, there are still around four stages more conducive to another stunt from Houle.