During his first year as a professional cyclist, Hugo Houle lost his younger brother Pierrik in a hit-and-run incident. The tragedy affected him enormously and the only cycling aim he had was to win a Tour stage for Pierrik one day. He did so in a stunning fashion, soloing to victory on stage 16 from 39 km out.
“When you are in trouble, there might be people who come and get you, and he was one of them, and now I don’t have him,” Houle explained. “I made it, and it means a lot to me. That one is for him. Today, this is for him. I worked for 10 to 12 years and today I got my win for him, so it’s incredible, I don’t know what to say, I’m so happy.”
“With 1 km to go, I knew I had about a minute, and it was done,” he said in his post-stage press conference. “I tried to enjoy it as much as possible. I’ve never won before, and to win today was a dream. My brother died ten years ago today, and I wanted to win in his honour. I had time to taste it, and I’m so happy. If I had to write down a dream way to win a stage, it [would be] like this. I’m still struggling to understand it.”
It was the first Tour stage win for Canada since 1988 and the second ever after Steve Bauer won the opening stage that year. To put a cherry on top, Bauer was there to support Houle.
“It’s quite crazy,” Houle said. We have more Canadians on the WorldTour thanks to Premier Tech. I hope what I achieved today can be an inspiration. In one year, I haven’t seen my parents, my family, because I have to be in Europe, I have to race. I’m really happy that I can win for Canada.
“I had Steve in the car supporting me, he was telling me to enjoy it. I hope there will be more Canadians that can win sooner than 34 years.”
Congratulations to the 31-year-old rider on the win and career-changing achievement. Will he add another one this year? What do you think?