‘This one’s for him’ – Hugo Houle dedicates Tour de France stage victory to his brother

Hugo Houle took a thrilling victory on stage 16 of the Tour de France, while Tadej Pogacar couldn’t land a single punch on Jonas Vingegaard in the yellow jersey as the race moved to the Pyrenees.

Houle went from a 29-strong breakout to finish alone on the 179km stage from Carcassonne to Foix, an excellent way to claim his first career win at any race and Canada’s first Tour victory since Steve Bauer – now sporting director Israel -PremierTech de Houle – won the second round in 1988.

But most significant for the 31-year-old Houle was the fulfillment of what has become his primary career goal – celebrating the very short life of his late brother Pierrik.

As young men, Hugo and Pierrik spent summer mornings together watching the Tour on television, but Pierrik was killed by a drunk driver in 2012 while racing and never got to see his brother participate in cycling’s biggest race.

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

“I mean a lot to me,” he said. “I had a 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 amazing. I don’t know what to say, I’m so happy.”

Houle topped the last climb of the day, Mur de Peguere, 26 seconds ahead of Matteo Jorgenson and maintained that lead on the descent to Foix before the American crashed just over 13km from the finish.

Jorgenson, with blood running from his elbow, came back and picked up Houle’s fellow Canadian teammate Michael Woods, but had to settle for fourth on the day behind Valentin Madouas and Woods.

“I’ve never won a race, so I think it’s the right place to win my first one,” said Houle. “When I attacked, it was basically to set the table for Michael Woods, but when I saw the difference, I just accelerated and in the end, I held on, I held on, I suffered.”

Vingegaard and Pogacar were part of a group that arrived six minutes later, with Geraint Thomas at the wheel to retain his third place overall, two minutes and 43 seconds from yellow and 21 seconds behind Pogacar.

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

Pogacar’s teammate Rafal Majka picked up the pace again with Peguere before drastically dropping his chain, narrowly avoiding a takedown with the reigning champions.

It was then Vingegaard’s teammate Sepp Kuss’ turn to press on, his acceleration pulling apart Thomas and Adam Yates, who struggled to limit damage before Thomas found teammate Dani Martinez – waiting at the separation – at the summit to give it a shot. step back and make sure there was no loss.

“Yatesy was really good,” said Thomas. “Fair play, he really committed to me and rode well in the last mile (of the Peguere).

“It was great to have Dani on the road. It was a very good performance by the team.”

Yates paid for his efforts by dropping to sixth place overall, while teammate Tom Pidcock also dropped one place to 10th, although Romain Bardet was the most significant loser of the day, taking over three minutes to drop from fourth to ninth. .

Pogacar’s teammate Marc Soler suffered from illness throughout the stage and is out of the Tour after missing the time cut.

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