Hugo Houle puts the hammer down in Ronde van Vlaanderen break
Canadian Hugo Houle put in an outstanding performance at today’s second Monument of the year, Ronde van Vlaanderen, spending more than 150 kilometres at the front of the race.
Right after the start a group of five riders launched an attack and gained a 40-second lead while behind, the battle for the breakaway wasn’t finished. With no Astana – Premier Tech representation in the group, Houle saw an opportunity to bridge across and after joining the group, the seven-rider breakaway capitalized on their strong cooperation to build an advantage of 10 minutes. Houle dug deep on the difficult terrain and showcased the team’s colours at the front of the race until 45 kilometres to go when the breakaway was caught on the Koppenberg.
As expected the race came alive inside the last 50 kilometres as attacks were flying and several riders tried to distance themselves. A crash saw many riders caught up, however Benjamin Perry and Dmitriy Gruzdev fortunately came away without any troubles and showed fighting spirit towards the finish line.
In a breathtaking finale, Danish rider Kasper Asgreen took the win ahead of Mathieu Van der Poel, while Greg van Avermaet finished third. Houle crossed the line after an amazing performance, together with his teammates Perry and Gruzdev, in the fourth group several minutes down on the winner.
‘’In the end, I wasn’t planning to go in the breakaway but it was the strategy of the team to put one guy in. The five guys got away and I knew there was still a possibility at the 20-kilometre mark, when there was a small road, to try to go across. I gave it a try and they let two of us go so we had to try really hard to get there. The guys in front were nice and slowed down a little bit to let us bridge across. We quickly built a gap of 10 minutes which was nice as it’s not every year that they let us take so much time. So it allowed us to stay away quite far into the race and be in front a long time.
I am happy with the ride. I’m not in the best shape now but I wanted to do something good for the team and say thank you to the staff who all worked so hard in the Classics. Unfortunately, the result was not as good as I expected but I am happy to be up there. It’s clear I am struggling a little bit after my cold but it was great to be in the front. The Tour of Flanders breakaway is always nice with the atmosphere and I’m happy I was able to show the jersey a little bit. It was hard, I gave everything, and now I’m quite empty. So I will enjoy some rest.’’ – said Hugo Houle
Ronde van Vlaanderen
Antwerp > Oudenaarde (254.3km)
Top 3: 1. Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck – QuickStep), 2. Mathieu Van der Poel (Alpecin – Fenix), 3. Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R La Mondiale)
Astana – Premier Tech top 3: 70. Benjamin Perry, 79. Hugo Houle, 81. Dmitry Gruzdev
Photo: Getty Image