Wednesday, July 20, 2022

More Tour de France: Canadians to the fore

The pride of Ste-Perpetué, Qc. Chapeau!

So last week I was noting Hugo Houle, a Canadian mostly anonymous in the pack of the Tour de France.  Yesterday, Hugo Houle became the first Canadian to win a stage of the Tour in decades.  So, not just a domestique!

Yesterday, observers -- mostly delighted for Houle -- were saying he had always been "one of the hard men," "a battler," "a journeyman." But even a journeyman can have his day. 

Houle's team Israel-Premier Tech Startup,* half owned by a Canadian, has no contender for overall winner, so Houle has not had to burn himself out as a support rider up front, providing slipstream to a contender. After saving his strength a while, he was able, first to go with a strong breakaway group (none of whom threatened the total time of the overall leaders), and then to break from the breakaway and go solo 40 km from the finish.  

Michael Woods, another Canadian of Israel-Premier Tech, was also in the original breakaway.  Woods is a team star, and had Houle have stayed with the breakaway group, he would likely have tried to pace Woods to victory. But when Houle discovered he could escape the group, Woods found himself in a chase group of just three, next behind Houle. It's a team sport; Woods saw what he had to do.  

The only chance of the three to catch Houle was to work together, maximizing their speed by sharing the work, taking turns leading their group. But Woods was not about to work. He hung back in the slipstream of the other two -- and with just two riders working, they were not powerful enough to catch Houle, whose lead actually expanded.  Victory to Houle. Victory for the whole team too, Woods not least. He came in third.

*Bike teams are permanent, but sponsors (and team names) change frequently.  At the moment there are three top-rank teams with Middle Eastern sponsors:  UAE, Bahrein-Victorious, and Israel Premier-Tech 

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