After Sep Vanmarcke’s win at the inaugural edition of the Maryland Cycling Classic last year, Israel – Premier Tech returned to Baltimore hungry for another podium result. A strong team performance saw Hugo Houle deliver.
Houle sprinted to third place from a select group, having battled the punchy terrain and scorching hot temperatures all day, still managing to find some legs to secure his first every podium spot at a one-day race.
“I am happy because I had quite a long break as I was sick after Worlds so I didn’t know exactly where the shape was, and now, I can take confidence ahead of the Canadian races,” explained Houle.
While the race was won by Mattias Skjelmose with a solo attack, Houle found himself in a three-man sprint for the final two podium places with Neilson Powless edging Houle out of second place.
“I am really happy as I think I did the best I could in that situation. I was happy to be in front and see the right move as straight away Skjelmose and Powless were strong and luckily I was in the wheel when they attacked and we turned around and saw that no-one was there. When we entered the circuit I knew it would be complicated because I was fighting against two Lidl – Trek and two Jayco Alula riders and Neilson Powless was really strong. I tried to play it smart and when Toms Skujins went up the road, Powless was the strongest to pull him back and then Trek went again. I was quite good and was able to jump a few times but I couldn’t do it alone. Skjelmose went away and we understood that we would be racing for second place. I attacked a few times but the guys were as strong as me and in the sprint, Neilson anticipated it well and I couldn’t go around him.”
It wasn’t just Houle who had good form today. The entire IPT team showed grit and determination all day, including stagiaire Riley Sheehan who was making his debut as a staigiare for the team on home soil, and impressing with a strong ninth place.
“It was really good to see the teamwork today. We always had numbers up there which was our plan and we executed it really well. All of the guys were really good, including the young guys like Derek Gee, Marco Frigo, and Riley Sheehan. So we can be proud of our race today,” added Houle.
Sports Director Steve Bauer praised the team’s performance and commitment to the race plan, with IPT represented in all of the key moves as planned.
“As a team the guys rode really well. The objective was to have strength in numbers when the race opened up and EF did that job for us and we matched it with Riley, Hugo, Derek, and Marco all up there. So they were in the game, stayed smart, Riley and Marco rode strong in that front group and then Hugo made the final breakaway and went to the line for the win. He fought hard but Trek had us outnumbered. Overall, I’m super happy with the group today and we can come away knowing we fought hard for that podium result.”