19 July 2022

‘This one is for him’ – Hugo Houle dedicates Tour de France stage win to brother

19 July 2022

Hugo Houle took an emotional victory on stage 16 of the Tour de France while Tadej Pogacar was unable to land any punches on Jonas Vingegaard in the yellow jersey as the race moved into the Pyrenees.

Houle rode clear from a 29-strong breakaway to finish solo in the 179km stage from Carcassonne to Foix, a superb way to take his first career win in any race and Canada’s first Tour victory since Steve Bauer – now Houle’s Israel-PremierTech sporting director – won stage two in 1988.

But more significantly for the 31-year-old Houle, this was the fulfilment of what had become his primary career goal – to celebrate the all-too-short life of his late brother Pierrik.

As youngsters, Hugo and Pierrik spent their summer mornings together watching the Tour on television, but Pierrik was killed by a drunk driver in 2012 while out running, and never got to see his brother take part in cycling’s biggest race.

Houle pointed to the sky as he crossed the line and fought to hold back tears during his post-race interview.

“I means a lot to me,” he said. “I had one dream, to win a stage for my brother who died when I turned pro. This one is for him. I worked for 10 years and today I got my win for him so it’s incredible. I don’t know what to say, I’m just so happy.”

Houle crested the final climb of the day, the Mur de Peguere, with an advantage of 26 seconds over Matteo Jorgenson and was holding that advantage on the descent into Foix before the American crashed with a little over 13km to go.

Jorgenson, blood dripping from his elbow, got back on and caught Houle’s team-mate and fellow Canadian Michael Woods, but had to settle for fourth on the day, behind Valentin Madouas and Woods.

“I’ve never won a race so I guess it’s the right place to win my first,” Houle said. “When I attacked it was basically to set the table for Michael Woods but when I saw the gap I just went full gas and at the end I hang on, I hang on, I suffer.”

Vingegaard and Pogacar were part of a group that came in six minutes later, with Geraint Thomas on their wheel to hold his third place overall, two minutes and 43 seconds off yellow and 21 seconds behind Pogacar.

True to his promise on Monday’s rest day, Pogacar had tried to attack on the first of the two category one climbs late in the stage, the Port de Lers, and then again on the descent, but had been unable to shake Vingegaard.

Pogacar’s team-mate Rafal Majka had upped the pace again on the Peguere before dramatically dropping his chain, narrowly avoiding a crash with the defending champion.

It was then the turn of Vingegaard’s team-mate Sepp Kuss to put the pressure on, his acceleration distancing Thomas and Adam Yates, who fought to limit the damage before Thomas found team-mate Dani Martinez – waiting from the breakaway – at the summit to pace him back and ensure there was no loss.

“Yatesy was really good,” Thomas said. “Fair play, he really committed to me and rode a nice tempo in the last kilometre and a half (of the Peguere).

“It was really good to have Dani up the road. It was a really good team performance.”

Yates paid for his efforts as he slipped to sixth overall while team-mate Tom Pidcock also dropped one place to 10th, though Romain Bardet was the more significant loser on the day, surrendering more than three minutes to slip from fourth to ninth.

Pogacar’s team-mate Marc Soler suffered with illness throughout the stage and is out of the Tour after missing the time cut.

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