When asked how he would describe his win on stage 16 of the Tour de France, Hugo Houle simply responded with “unbelievable.”
The Canadian crossed the line with his arm raised in the air pointing to the sky, dedicating the win to Pierrik, his brother who was killed by a drunk driver ten years ago. Houle has chased this victory for ten years.
“I could not believe it when I crossed the line. I was just so happy. It was what I have been dreaming of for the past ten years. This one is for my brother,” said Houle.
A third place on stage 13 was already an indication of Houle’s strength at this year’s Tour de France and as the workhorse he is, having spent his career working for his teammates, Houle made it into today’s large breakaway with the objective of riding for teammate Mike Woods.
After dropping on the Port de Lers, Houle chase back to the front of the race with 40 kilometers to go before attacking from the reduced group at the foot of the final climb, the Mur de Péguère.
“When I attacked it was basically to set the table for Mike Woods and when I saw that they let me go, Mike made a gap, I just went all in. I went full gas. You never know how it will turn out in the breakaway. Sometimes you need some luck. I mean I was strong and everything went smoothly. I said ‘Ok I am really tired but if I go up the road then it’s easier for Mike’. Nobody wanted to commit and the gap was 40 seconds, then 30 seconds. And then it was just a time trial to the end, all or nothing.”
Houle was facing the time trial of his life while behind, it was just Matteo Jorgenson who was left to chase but the American had Woods for company giving IPT the advantage.
“I was hanging on but I was suffering so much on the steep climb,” explained Houle. “But I knew that if I got to the top with 30 or 40 seconds, maybe I could do it. It was tight, it was a long time at 30 seconds but I never gave up. I gained some more time in the technical section and when they told me the gap was one minute, I knew I was going to do it.”
For Houle, this is more than just the biggest win of his career. It’s a dream come true.
“I had one dream: win a stage for my brother who died when I turned professional. Today I won it for him. I worked hard for ten years and today I got the win for him. It’s incredible, I don’t know what to say. I’m just so happy.”
With Woods crossing the line in third place to round out the podium and the last Canadian to win a stage at the Tour (in 1988), Steve Bauer, behind Houle in the race car, it was a brilliant day for Canadian cycling and IPT, said IPT Partner Sylvan Adams
“I am so proud of Hugo, Mike, and the entire team. What an outstanding victory for Hugo. He’s a hard worker for his teammates, but has shown what a special rider he truly is at this Tour. He almost won a few days ago, so he made sure to win today with his courageous ride. This is the first Canadian Tour win since Steve Bauer, who was guiding Hugo in the car. I love our team,” added Adams.
Houle’s win gives IPT its second victory of the Tour de France after Simon Clarke’s emphatic win on stage 5.