As the 2022 Tour de France got its first stage of the Pyrenees today, Canadian Hugo Houle achieved a long-held ambition to win a Tour stage and dedicate it to his late brother Pierrick, who died when he was hit by a car while out running nine years ago.
A hardwon victory no one could begrudge the popular Israel–Premier Tech racer, behind him the GC race sparked but failed to explode.
Stage 16 from Carcassonne to Foix saw the race again enter the mountains, this time the Pyrenees (although far greater tests await over the next two days).
Still, with a pair of first category climbs – the Port de Lers and Mur de Péguère – leading into a downhill finish, many expected Tadej Pogačar to attack the yellow jersey of Jonas Vingegaard to reclaim some of his 2:22sec deficit on GC. He didn’t disappoint, but despite multiple attacks both up the Port de Lers and downhill afterwards, Vingegaard had the measure of him.
The Dane covered all the moves on the Port de Lers by himself, then on the final climb teammate Sepp Kuss set such a strong pace that Pogačar could only sit on the Jumbo-Visma train as all the other GC contenders save Nairo Quintana were distanced.
Ineos Grenadiers’ Geraint Thomas didn’t panic however, and as we’ve seen so many times simply measured his effort up the climb and was quickly able to rejoin the yellow jersey group as it reformed on the descent, maintaining his third place overall.
The day’s big loser was Romain Bardet, who dropped three minutes overall to fall to the tail end of the top 10 overall, his dreams of a Tour podium all but gone.
But Houle’s unexpected win was without doubt the day’s main story. Escaping from a 29-rider break just before the final climb, by the time the other riders realised the danger he’d built a significant lead.
In his wake, only Movistar’s Matteo Jorgenson looked capable of catching him, until a spill on the final descent disrupted his plans. In the end, he’d settle for second ahead of Houle’s teammate Michael Woods. Get close to the action with our gallery from snappers Pete Goding and his team.
Tadej Pogačar and the UAE Team Emirates during the easy first part of the stage.
Philippe Gilbert (Lotto Soudal) seems to have enjoyed watching Team DSM’s Nils Eekhoff beat all-conquering Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) at the intermediate sprint.
The picturesque village of Tarascon-sur-Ariège welcomes the race.
This is the Tour de France.
Former World Champions get thirsty too. This is Trek-Segafredo’s Mads Pedersen, stage winner in Saint-Etienne last Friday.
A patched up Tiesj Benoot still pulling the Jumbo-Visma train… or what’s left of it.
Van Aert reacts to being asked to get in the break in order to provide a chaperone for teammate Jonas Vingegaard in the race’s closing kilometres.
Vingegaard looking comfortable in yellow, as he would all day.
Seen here behind Ineos Grenadiers teammate Filippo Ganna, Geraint Thomas benefited from extremely well-delivered team support.
Mountain points getting fought over.
Jumbo-Visma, followed by Ineos Grenadiers, followed by UAE Team Emirates. Probably a fair analysis of how the teams stack up in terms of combined firepower.
Dedicating his win to his brother, this was Hugo Houle’s first victory and he made it a great one.
All images: Godingimages
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