Hugo Houle pointed to the sky by crossing the finish line well before the competition of stage 16 of the Tour de France.
After completing the 178.5 kilometer hilly stage through the Pyrenees from Carcassonne to Foix in four hours 23 minutes 47 seconds – 1:10 ahead of Frenchman Valentin Madouas and fellow Israeli-Premier Tech Michael Woods of Ottawa – Houle dedicated his historic win to his younger brother.
Pierrik Houle died in December 2012 when he was run over by a drunk driver while jogging. He was 19 years old.
“I had a dream: to win the stage for my brother who died when I turned professional. Today is for him,” Houle said after the race.
“I worked for 10, 12 years and today I got my win for him so it’s amazing. I don’t know what to say, so happy.”
WATCH | Houle wins the 16th stage of the Tour de France:
Houle, of Sainte-Perpétue, Que., achieved his dream by claiming his first Grand Tour stage victory on Tuesday, and the first Tour de France stage victory for a Canadian in 34 years.
Steve Bauer, now sporting director of Israel-Premier Tech, captured the opening stage of the Tour in 1988.
Houle opened up about life without her brother in a 2021 interview.
“But at the end of the day, I have to move on,” he said at the time. “He was my biggest fan, for sure.”
The emotional impact of Houle’s victory was evident as soon as he crossed the finish line.
“This one’s for my brother,” Houle could be heard saying as he was hugged by his team.
“It means a lot to me,” he told reporters shortly after, his voice cracking as he struggled to hold back tears.
This is the second podium for Houle in this year’s Tour. He finished third in stage 13 on Friday.
Madouas was second on Tuesday and Woods was third for his second career Tour de France podium. He finished third in Stage 8 of last year’s race.
Not one, but TWO Canadians 🇨🇦 in the Top 3 of stage 16 of the @Round 🚴♂️🚴 ♂️ 👏
Winning is good, but sharing the podium with a friend is even better https://t.co/787B5NXpch”>pic.twitter.com/787B5NXpch
Woods joining Houle on the podium created an unprecedented day of success for Canada in the elite Grand Tour cycling race.
“What a day for Israel-Premier Tech finishing 1st and 3rd,” said four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome on Twitter. “Particularly happy for Hugo Houle, this victory means so much to him, and so deserved after years of sacrificing his own chances for others.
Houle moved up seven places to 26th overall. Woods moved up 11 spots to rank 36th.
Denmark’s Jonas Vingaard retained the yellow jersey as the overall leader of the race.
Houle attacked on the approach to the final climb, the top category Mur de Peguere, and held off the chasing group of the remnants of the breakaway on the stage which included four graded climbs – including two category one climbs.
The 31-year-old had cleared the final climb with a 25-second advantage and his task was made easier when American cyclist Matteo Jorgenson – who was second at the time and chasing him – slipped on a bend, leaving only Woods with a realistic chance of catching his compatriot and teammate.
Houle, who lives in Monaco, is taking part in his seventh Grand Tour and his fourth consecutive Tour de France. He also took part twice in the Giro d’Italia and once in the Spanish Vuelta.
He finished another top-10 stage in the Tour de France with a seventh-place finish on stage 12 in 2020. He also won gold in the individual time trial at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
The race ends on Sunday
Double defending champion Tadej Pogacar tried to attack several times on the penultimate climb of Port de Lers – twice on the climb and again on the descent – but Vingaard remained on his wheel.
They crossed the line together and Vingaard maintained their lead of 2:22 over Pogacar and 2:43 over Geraint Thomas, the 2018 champion.
Antoine Duchesne of Saguenay, Que., who rides for Groupama FDJ, finished 62nd on the stage and 71st overall. Guillaume Boivin of Montreal, also of Israel-Premier Tech, was 95th on Tuesday and 131st overall.
Wednesday’s 17th stage is an even tougher day in the Pyrenees with three top-ranked climbs, plus a second-category climb, on the 129.7-kilometre route from Saint-Gaudens with a summit finish at the resort Peyragudes ski area.
“Tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, I’m looking forward to it, there will be more chances than today I hope, and we’ll see how the legs are,” Pogacar said.
“I will continue to fight and I hope to save time. I will always try, it will be interesting tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.”
The Tour ends Sunday in Paris.