Bauer 'proud' of Houle's first Canadian Tour de France win in 34 years

Steve Bauer with another Canadian Israel-Premier Tech staff member after Houle's Tour de France stage 16 victory
Steve Bauer with another Canadian Israel-Premier Tech staff member after Houle's Tour de France stage 16 victory (Image credit: Noa Arnon)

It has been a long wait for Canadian cycling but on Tuesday in Foix, Hugo Houle broke a 34-year stage winner's duck at the Tour de France, soloing home from the breakaway after attacking up the steep slopes of the Mur de Péguère.

The Québécois had two Canadian time trial titles to his name before going solo almost 40km from the finish line but stole away from the remains of a large breakaway group just four days after coming close to the win in Saint-Etienne.

It's not since 1988 that a Canadian has won a stage of the Tour, with Steve Bauer the man having held that honour for over three decades since his opening stage triumph in Machecoul.

Bauer is now a directeur sportif at the Israel-Premier Tech team and was in the car behind Houle as he got away to take that historic victory, with compatriot Michael Woods taking third place.

After the stage, Cyclingnews spoke to Bauer to get his perspective on seeing another Canadian win a Tour stage after all these years.

"That's what they tell me. I think it's probably correct. It's been a long time – too long," Bauer said at the Israel-Premier Tech bus in Foix.

"It's incredible to see. What a top pro Hugo has been. He's always been the top team man for his leaders, doing his job day in, day out. He's a top professional.

"He studies the plan, he organises himself well, and to have such a performance like that today is superb. He had a chance to go for the win and he was super strong. He rode smart, he rode strong, and deserves it all."

Bauer, a new DS at the team for 2022, was in the team car with Zak Dempster as the two directors advised Houle and Woods on the 178.5km stage, with the end result being a second stage win at the race following Simon Clarke's triumph at Arenberg back on stage 5, and a third place for Woods.

"I was with Zak," Bauer said. "I'm super happy I got the chance to follow the break without two Canucks. They trust my voice over the radio, and I gave them the best information I could.

"It's always emotional coming into the last kilometre after such an effort and after such a brilliant day that Hugo had. I feel proud of him and what he's accomplished.

"To win one is great," he added. "I only won one in the Tour and I know that it feels great. It's been a long time coming for Hugo and I always knew he could do it. Today was his day."

Sports Director Steve Bauer (Israel-Premier Tech) at the 2022 Tour de France

Israel-Premier Tech directeur sportif Steve Bauer (Image credit: Israel-Premier Tech)

Bauer admitted that the team had been riding for Woods, who might have been expected to be the top contender from the break on the hard gradients towards the top of the Mur de Péguère. However, it was Houle who took advantage of the situation in the break to get away on the run to the climb soon after coming back to the group after dropping away on the Port de Lers.

"When he was a little bit behind on the descent of the Port de Lers, he was asking 'should I go? Should I bridge?' because Woods was in front," Bauer explained.

"I said 'well, you know, let the guys do most of the work but come back' and he bridged across. I'm not sure how he did it, but he was very smart to attack immediately to put everybody on the back foot.

"Michael was in there and with the final climbs on the stage, we were gaming for him in particular because of the final steep Mur. Hugo was strong and the other day was in the break and he’s in top shape. That's what it takes and then he can do great things."

Stage winner Houle said that it was "crazy" to be the first Canadian to win a Tour stage in so long. He added that he hoped that his team – which is owned by Canadian-born Sylvan Adams, co-sponsored by Canadian company Premier Tech, and employs several Canadian backroom staff – can build the next generation of Canadian cyclists.

"It's quite crazy," Houle said. "We have more and more Canadians on the WorldTour thanks to our team and Premier Tech, and Premier Tech development team. We're working to have the next generation.

"I think what I achieved today can be an inspiration of what is possible. For myself it was David Veilleux who was in the yellow jersey in the 2013 Critérium du Dauphiné a few years ago that showed the way.

"It's been a year since I've seen my parents, my family, because I have to be in Europe to race. To win a stage in the Tour is what motivated me. I'm happy I can win for the Canadians and also, I had Steve Bauer in the car on the radio telling us to 'enjoy, boys, enjoy'. I was still going full gas and he said 'you've got this take it easy man'.

"It was nice to have the time to enjoy. I hope there will be more Canadians to win faster than 34 years."

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