Tour de France 2022 : Stage 16 – Hugo Houle solos to emotional first victory

Let his palmares show that Hugo Houle‘s first professional victory came on Stage 16, Tour de France 2022. In a day for the tactical deployment of teammates, the Israel-PremierTech Canadian flew solo from the break of the day with 40km to go, dug deep on Mur de Peguere and kept his cool on the testing descent to come across the line with a salute to the brother he lost to a hit-and-run incident ten years ago. Behind him, Valentin Maduous (Groupama- FDJ) pipped Houle’s teammate and fellow Canadian, Michael Woods. Behind THEM the GC podium remains unchanged due to Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) repelling all of Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) attacks. Underneath the podium, it’s all shaken and stirred with Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) moving up to fourth and Romain Bardet (Team DSM) dropping from fourth to ninth.

I do love a day-after-the-rest-day stage. Especially when the parcours looks like this – two Cat 1 climbs and swoosh to the finish line – tell me that’s not a recipe for a smash-and-grab raid and I’ll question your sanity!

Even more so when Pog makes it abundantly clear what his plans are for the rest of the week!

The break of the day was quickly allowed to establish a stage-winning gap. However, the composition was very interesting for all sorts of reasons.

Aleksandr Vlasov (BORA-hansgrohe) was best placed at +10:32. He flirted with the virtual yellow and ultimately ended the day back in the top 10 on GC. I’d say the BORA bus was happy. There were riders obviously out for stage winning glory – I see you Damiano Caruso and Dylan Teuns from Bahrain ‘not-yet’ Victorious and Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar) Then there were the tactical deployments – the ‘send men up the road to support their GC guys later’ riders. Jumbo Bees sent Wout van Aert and Nathan van Hooydonck with UAE represented by Brandon McNulty and Dani Martinez for INEOS Grenadiers. Groupama-FDJ had all options covered with Madous, Michael Storer and Ollie Le Gac

The stage was set, the pieces deployed, all we waited for was the blue touch paper to be lit. I can’t possibly cover all the minuatiae of this fascinating stage so make sure to watch the highlights.

O Canada

I am overjoyed when a team domestique takes a win. These guys do the grunt work, stage after stage, race after race, season after season. The breaks splintered and came back together in various formations on the climbs.  When Hugo and teammate Woods both made the cut, it was easy to assume he would ride to set up Woods and that would be his work done. However, as things became more tactical ahead of the Mur de Peguere, Hugo surged clear. It made sense. Woods didn’t have to work with Movistatlet Break supremo Matteo Jorgenson. Houle stomped up the 18% incline at the end of the climb, pain etched in every pedal stroke, crested it with a 35sec in hand. He took the descent with deadly ice calm – unlike poor Jorgenson who slid out at a corner and all but sealed the win for Houle. Onto the flattish run to the line he went into TT mode, his calm determination only breaking when his dream was in sight. Only then did his victory salute appear, only then did the emotions pour out.

His celebrations

His post race interview

If you don’t know the full story about why this win is so special, please read this piece by Sadhbh. I can’t imagine what this means to have this wish fulfilled. Chapeau Hugo

Robbie McEwen talking straight here. Yes, I don’t think anyone would have picked Hugo for this win, and yes it was special. But he didn’t just get lucky, he worked damn hard for it and alongside the beautiful story it tells, I want to remember that too.

Attack attack attack

Pog comes into this final week vowing to attack anytime, any place, anywhere. With stinging 18% ramps the smart money was on the final climb, but NO! Tadej chose to go on the Port de Lers  – coming from behind with a trademark zinger. He got his gap, distanced some GC riders,

But not Jonas Vingegaard, oh no, the Dane was on his wheel like greased lightning. They surged ahead alone – mano-a -mano – again.

Pog tried again, but Jonas was not for dropping.

It settled down, and the rest of the GC contenders were brought back. All except Romain Bardet (Team DSM) who struggled at the back. Onto the descent and Pog tried for a third time, but once more, Jonas was equal to it.

The ascent of the Peguere…

YAAAY Meintjes makes a move

in an even stranger turn of affairs – MOVISTAR attack

Order was restored as UAE changed tactics. Majka came to the front and set a hot pace, shelling out GC rivals like peas.

David Gaudu and INEOS duo Adam Yates and Geraint Thomas were dropped but got back on. Beloved Bardet was off the back again and would not return.

Just before the summit Majka had a mechanical and came to an abrupt, shuddering standstill.

But cometh the hour, cometh the Jumbo Bee mountain man Sepp Kuss. His blistering pace winnowed out everyone to leave just Pog, Jonas, Kuss and Nairo Quintana – YES REALLY! – in the elite group cresting over the summit.

The first part of the descent over the Peguere is tough. It does not immediately lead into a balls-to-the-wall, swift and scary swoop. You need to power pedal, something that is not easy after riding a leg breaking ramp. THIS is where the tactical deployment of teamies in the break really paid dividends.

Martinez played the same role for Thomas.

Gaudu rode himself back on – HOORAY

Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together

A real attackity stage could not separate the top three on GC.

However, places 4 to 10 have been thoroughly mixed up.

Nairo moves up to fourth!! 4:15 behind Jonas, and a little over 2 mins from the podium.

Gaudu makes the leap back to 5th

The biggest loser was Bedhead who was brought over the line by a phalanx on teammates 9min after the stage winner and some 5min after the yellow jersey.

Post-race it was revealed he had been unwell, I would not be surprised if he does not take the start tomorrow. [Sounds like Covid to me – ed, MD] It’s such a blow after his illness at the Giro, he’s been on sparkling form.

Marc Soler

It became apparent early on in the stage that UAE Team Emirates Marc Soler was unwell.

He rode the race in front of the broom wagon, was seen at the medical car and vomiting at the roadside. Soler did make it to the finish line – 57:06 after Hugo Houle – and was over the time limit so is out of the Tour. What the hell was the point?

This sport is tough, it’s part of the reason we love it. As fans we are used to seeing riders race on with injuries or illnesses that would floor us. There is a long history of glorification of this aspect of our sport and it makes me uncomfortable. The ex-pro riders explaining why riders will put them selves through anything not to climb off. I don’t doubt for a minute that it matters to the riders, and for many, pushing themselves to the limit is part of sport. But surely there must come a point when the team steps in and say enough is enough. These are elite sportsmen and more importantly humans. I am with Issie on this one…

The Last Word


Stage 16 results 

1 Hugo Houle (Israel-Premier Tech) 4:23:47

2 Valentin Madous (Groupama-FDJ) +1:10

3 Michael Woods (Israel-Premier Tech) s.t.

4 Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar) +1:12

5 Michael Storer (Groupama – FDJ) +1:25

GC Top 10 

1 Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) 64:28:09

2 Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) +2:22

3 Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) +2:43

4 Nairo Quintana (Team Arkea-Samsic) +4:15

5 David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) +5:46

6 Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) +5:28

7 Louis Meintjes (Intermarche-Wanty-Goubert) +5:46

8 Aleksander Vlasov (BORA-hansgrohe) +6:18

9 Romain Bardet (Team DSM) +6:37

10 Tom Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers) +10:11

All the jerseys 

Embed from Getty Images

Leader’s jersey : Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma)

Points jersey : Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma)

King of the Mountains jersey : Simon Geschke (Cofidis)

Young Rider Jersey : Tadej Pogacar (UAE)

Team competition : INEOS Grenadiers

For the full stage review, go to cyclingnews

Go here for the official Tour de France website



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