Canadian Cycling Magazine

The Story Behind the Win, and the Story Behind the Story

How I came to see Hugo Houle’s Tour de France stage win in a new light


This past July, as soon as Hugo Houle crossed the finish line in Foix, taking his historic Tour de France win, I started planning a story. A hard-working guy from Sainte-perpétue, Que., a rider who does his job for others on the team, was in the spotlight. He had laboured in the pro peloton for 10 years with the goal of honouring his brother Pierrik—who was killed in a hit-and-run—with a victory on cycling’s biggest stage. And Hugo did it.

But how did he do it? It’s a simple question. You can find simple answers. Just re-watch Stage 16, right? Houle gets a gap before the final climb and keeps it to the end. End of story. Of course that’s not the end. To understand that moment, you have to go back hours, days, months and even years to see what went into it.

To be honest—and what I’m about to say will sound unfair—i was skeptical about Houle’s goal. I supported it, fully. I wanted him to achieve it. But the dream of winning a Tour stage is probably one all riders have lurking somewhere in the back of their minds. Just getting selected to a Tour squad can be a win in itself, let alone vying for a stage victory. The odds aren’t good.

I spoke with many of Houle’s teammates, former directors and his good friend, the recently retired Antoine Duchesne. Duchesne told me one of the reasons that Houle’s dream wasn’t such a longshot. “To win a stage, you need to be really strong,” Duchesne said to me in an interview. “But in a Grand Tour, there’s always going to be opportunit­ies in the second and third weeks. If you’re at the level to fight for the right breaks, it’s the same 20 guys in them. Of those 20 guys, anyone can win it, depending on how the race goes. The past two years, Hugo has been showing he’s one of these guys.” There were markers obvious to Duchesne. In my story, I try to pick up all the signals throughout Houle’s career that led to that day in July. I’m grateful I could delve into that journey. I hope you follow its ups and down in “Hugo Houle and the Win of a Lifetime” (p.24).

Matthew Pioro Editor

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