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The press at the Tour de France | Hugo Houle has great ambitions

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(Copenhagen) The sun sets in late summer in Denmark. It was after 8:30 pm when Hugo Houle came to sit on the terrace of his hotel in Copenhagen on Tuesday. He had to change places to hide from the rays that blinded him.

Posted at 5:00

Simone Drouin

Simone Drouin
The print

Two tables away, Steve Bauer was having a beer with a Canadian massage therapist and two PR experts from the Israel-Premier Tech team. Mechanics pampered the bikes in the parking lot.

A few hours earlier, Houle did like all Copenhagens: he took one of the countless bike paths to stretch his legs. But no cargo bikes for him. Rather a brand new time trial car that will test on Friday in the first stage of the Tour de France.

Directly from the hotel it started along the coasts of the island of Amager, where the airport is located. About thirty kilometers there and back, entirely on a cycle path.

I have two new bikes. I try the material. I want to make sure everything is okay.

Hugo Houle

For the 24And time, the great start of the Tour de France will therefore be given abroad – a very profitable adventure for the organizer ASO. Denmark, which reportedly paid around 90 million crowns (C $ 16.384 million) to host it, is the northernmost destination in history.

The event will start on Friday with a 13.2km time trial, where Houle will have absolutely no pretensions. Two stages on the road will follow, Saturday and Sunday, promises to the big names and where the wind risks being the decisive factor.

“The goal of the first week will be to stay in the saddle, summed up the 31-year-old from Quebec. The streets are exposed, there is wind, there is sea, there are canals. It can lead to curbs. But it doesn’t matter: you would put a straight line in the Tour de France and half of the group would be able to pull down! The stakes are so great. Runners are more nervous, they take risks. ”

In excellent shape

As often, his mission will be to protect Jakob Fuglsang, one of the local heroes. In theory, the 2016 Olympic vice-champion is not aiming for the general classification… but still a little bit. To be reviewed after the first week, when the group will be back in the north of France.

From there, Houle will find rougher terrain to express himself and a little more freedom. At least he hopes so. On his fourth consecutive Tour, he feels he has one of his best forms ever. He has recovered well from the Tour de Suisse (15And), where it went flat for Fuglsang (3And).

The Tour is the time of year to shine. We are all aware of the problem. For me it’s more of a motivation. I’m ready, my homework is done, can’t wait to go.

Hugo Houle

Houle loudly shows his desire to sign a first victory in Europe. He therefore wants to slip into breakaways in the stages with a significant drop.

“This remains my goal for this year or my career in general. It’s my ultimate dream: to finish a stage of the Tour de France. ”

It would have an even more special taste with Israel-Premier Tech, a team with a strong flavor of Quebec and Canada.

Owner Sylvan Adams is a Montreal citizen, now living in Israel, who has made a fortune in the real estate business. Premier Tech is a multinational company of Rivière-du-Loup. Jean Bélanger, its majority shareholder, has become a friend. Steve Bauer, Canadian cycling legend, formerly the yellow jersey at the Tour, is one of the three sporting directors.


PHOTO SIMON DROUIN, THE PRESS

Steve Bauer and Hugo Houle

There are also friends like Michael Woods, who landed at the hotel shortly after with the rest of the contingent who live in Andorra or Girona, near Barcelona. The Ontario climber will also aim for stage victory.

Without forgetting Chris Froome, one of the rare quadruple winners, who three years after his terrible crash at the Dauphiné is still trying to get close to the level he once was.

“When I was racing for SpiderTech, I never imagined doing the Tour de France,” said Houle. There I do it with a team that is practically from home and with people we know. It is still outstanding. Personally it motivates me to be even better and to give my all for a team that I am much more attached to. ”

With his face uncovered

Romain Bardet was surprised on Twitter that he had to accompany “90%” of the passengers who did not wear masks in the crowded plane. “First stress test” wrote the French of the DSM training. On our flight between Amsterdam and Copenhagen, the French Bryan Coquard, from Cofidis, and the Italian Fabio Felline, from Astana, made it. Hugo Houle, noticed a certain relaxation between Nice and the capital of Denmark. “Half of the runners didn’t have one on the plane. I’ve seen very famous runners, who are there for the general, who weren’t wearing one. “With the resurgence of cases in Europe and during the Tour de Suisse, the Quebecer did not take any risks: he kept his N95 mask for the interview that took place outside. The Tour de France starters will all have to undergo a PCR test on Wednesday, before the official presentation at the Tivoli Park in the evening.

Patience

The Montreal-Amsterdam-Copenhagen trip was not easy: 26 hours door to door, the same time to get to Tokyo or Beijing for the Olympic Games. As in Montreal-Trudeau, Schiphol International Airport in Amsterdam has been particularly affected by the shortage of staff since the post-pandemic recovery. The queues at European customs on Tuesday were staggering. With a computer problem at KLM, it was the perfect storm. Fortunately, Hugo Houle is a patient boy.

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