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Canada’s Houle Claims Career-best 3rd on Mont Mégantic Queen Stage 2 @ Tour de Beauce + Interview and PHOTOS

by pedalmag.com
Sepp Kuss wins with Lemus and Houle just behind  ©  Pasquale Stalteri
June 16, 2016 (Mont Mégantic, QC) –  Veteran rider Hugo Houle (Team Canada) led three Canadians into the top 10 with a career-best podium finish racing to a stellar third on the 170km queen Stage 3 up the grueling Mont Mégantic final climb. Sepp Kuss (USA) Rally Cycling claimed the victory on the renowned stage that inevitably changes the standings with Luis Lemus (Mex) Cycling Academy Team in second.

Ryan Roth  ©  Pasquale Stalteri

Ryan Roth (Can) Silber Pro Cycling delivered a strong 6th while Robert Britton (Can) Rally Cycling, who was instrumental in helping his teammate to the top step on the podium, finished 10th on the day.

Robert Britton  ©  Pasquale Stalteri

American Champion Gregory Daniel (Axeon Hagens Berman), who collapsed soon after he crossed the line, is the new race leader with Kuss in second and Houle third at 19 seconds behind the main prize.

Gregory Daniel  ©  Pasquale Stalteri

“It’s hard to do better. I ran out of legs a little and I was on the verge of cramping but I was able to hold on,” said Houle, 25, who sits third overall and is a Pro cyclist with WorldTour team AG2R-La Mondiale. “It was a good day and Team Canada did really well and supported me which made up for yesterday.” – full interview below.

Mikhel Raim  ©  Pasquale Stalteri

A break of 25 riders set the stage for the fireworks to come as it was whittled down to 12 protagonists that gained a 2:30 gap at one point. Yellow jersey Mikhel Raim (Est) Cycling Academy Team was initially in the fight but succumbed as did others with the brutal stage that featured four KOM climbs and three Mont-Morne circuits before the final 5km climb that averages 12% with 18% steep pitches.

Houle knew he was a marked man and with teammate Ryan Anderson in the break, he waited patiently to see how things would unfold and saved his legs.

Pack  ©  Pasquale Stalteri

The attrition saw 7 leaders hit the final climb with Houle and the pack at 20 seconds. According to the TdB “the ascent of Mont Mégantic by bike is probably the most difficult in Quebec as well as being the highest elevated road in the province.”

William Routley  ©  Pasquale Stalteri

Lemus attacked but was chased down by Kuss, Houle, Lachlan Morton (Aus) Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis and Christopher Butler (USA) Cycling Academy Team. Kuss proved to be the strongest as he demonstrated back in April winning the mountain top finish of the Oak Glen stage at the Redlands Bicycle Classic.

“It’s an honor to win on such a prestigious climb,” said Kuss. “A lot of big names have won on Mont Mégantic and it feels amazing to be on that list. It also feels great to finish off a great day of teamwork and repay the team’s faith in me to go for the win.

Men's podium (l-r) Lemus 2nd, Kuss 1st, Houle 3rd  ©  Pasquale Stalteri

“With Rob and Will in the break, along with some other general classification threats, the pressure was on Silber and Jelly Belly to bring down the gap, which took the pressure off us back in the field. Emerson, Shane, Pierrick and Eric were incredible and kept me out of the wind all day and got me to the base of the climb in good shape.”

Houle, the Canadian TT champ that’s aspiring for a spot on the Canadian Olympic squad, is aiming to improve on his 3rd place finish at Beauce in 2012.

“When Kuss went I couldn’t go with him but I did my job. I’m happy,” said Houle. “We have a lot of good riders here, but I’m confident in my TT skills, and it’s going to be really important for me to do a big ride; it’s come down to me, to see if I can gain that 19 seconds tomorrow.”

Interview with Houle

Gregory Daniel  ©  Pasquale Stalteri

Many observers also see him wearing yellow after the 19-km time trial competition taking place Friday morning in Saint-Prosper on Stage 3A followed by a 78km early evening road race on Stage 3B – for a daily double of racing.

Fellow Quebecer and Team Canada rider young David Drouin, a Beauce local from Saint-Prosper, had a fine day as well finishing an impressive 13th at 1:57 behind Kuss.

Daniel also holds the Red Jersey as the Best Young Rider, and the White Jersey as the Points leader. Robert Squire (Holowesko) captured the King of the Mountains Polka Dot Jersey after superb climbing up in the day’s breakaway. He won the maximum 40 points during the first four opening KOM sprints up the Mount Morne and Marston climbs.

Some pundits are calling for Houle to be wearing yellow after the 19-km time trial on Friday. The last Canadian to win the Tour de Beauce is Svein Tuft back in 2008 with Jacques Landry is the last champion from Quebec in 1994.

Full results here.

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