As Hugo Houle crossed the stage 8 finish line in Nice today, 6’34” down on stage winner Simon Yates, his grimace was visible from the long range finish line camera. The tank was empty, he had given everything he had. The result? Hugo finished Paris – Nice in 13th on the General Classification, his equal best GC result at a WorldTour stage race.

But, unlike his 13th place at Tirreno – Adriatico last year, this was different. For the last four stages, half of the race, Hugo has been the only IPT rider left. Flying the IPT flag solo and doing it with nothing but class and determination.

“I don’t think I could have done anything better this week,” said Hugo. “I’m really happy with what I did, just being alone, going all the way to Nice and getting this result for the team. That was my way of saying thank you for keeping all of the staff there with me, giving me the best conditions possible to keep the motivation and keep fighting all day, even though it was really hard. So a big thank you to the team for supporting me the whole week. I’m really happy with my race.”

The social media support he has received this week is a testament to Hugo’s achievement this week. He knew the final two stages would be the biggest tests to overcome but he dug deep on his training home roads to stay with the GC group for as long as possible.

“It was a tough stage. Of course, there was a lot of rain at the beginning and then after it dried up, but the downhill was still wet. I felt good. I stayed in the front group for a long time and then on the descent of the second climb, there was a crash and that caused a gap in the bunch. Then we had to chase back which put me in the red and I struggled to stay in the front in the downhill. So I made a few mistakes there. But, in the end, I kept my own tempo and kept fighting all the way to the end. I had a great group after the last climb all the way down into Nice so I could keep pushing to keep my place on the GC.”

It was a short drive home to Monaco for Hugo for some well-deserved rest ahead of his next races, where we’re betting Hugo will happily share the personal chef, DS, two mechanics, and two soigneurs he had this week if it means having some teammates.