Quebecer Hugo Houle finished at 44e rank of 104e edition of the Tour of Flanders. This race ended with a spectacular sprint at the end of which the Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel edged the Belgian Wout Van Aert by a few centimeters. It was also marked by the fall of the world champion, the French Julian Alaphilippe.
For this last monument of the season, Houle (Astana) had a day just like his year. A good performance allowed him to improve on the best result of his career at this classic (he had finished 59e in 2018). His group crossed the finish 4 min 3 s after the winner.
“I ran well overall. The shape is still good. On the other hand, I begin to feel that I have less explosiveness, that I am a little more tired. Quite simply, I lack the power to keep up with the top 15-20, ”said the eighth consecutive participant.
“I have made good progress compared to other years. The shape is better. I’m able to run better, but I’m still missing a little tick to be with the best in the world. But that encourages me for the future. ”
Hugo Houle, who obtained his team’s best result, stressed that the pace of the race was faster than in previous editions, despite a strong headwind.
A very special victory
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), two favorites to win, rode as a duo for more than 30 kilometers, until the sprint in the last 200 meters. The Dutchman celebrated a very special victory as his father Adrie won this race 34 years ago. Norway’s Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates) completed the podium by crossing the finish line at the head of a group eight seconds behind the leaders.
With less than 40 kilometers to go, Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) took the lead with a few accelerations and was in the lead with van der Poel. A few kilometers later, they were overtaken by Van Aert. The latter recovered quickly from a fall that had previously occurred.
At the back in this three-way breakaway, Alaphilippe was following his rivals closely when he hit an organization motorcycle head-on. Injured, he was forced to retire.
A race to forget for Guillaume Boivin
Guillaume Boivin (Israel Start-Up Nation) suffered a puncture at the foot of the Eikenberg and a failure of the derailleur finally forced him to change his bike.
“It was kind of the end of my race. I tried to return afterwards, but it was impossible, he said. It’s a day to forget for me and for the team, ”he added, referring in particular to the fall of Frenchman Hugo Hofstetter, one of the leaders of his training.
A total of 172 riders took the start in Antwerp to reach the finish in Oudenaarde. This 243.3 km route had been shortened by some 24 km due to health measures.
In the women’s race of the Tour of Flanders, the Quebecer Gabrielle Pilote Fortin (Massi-Tactic) did not reach the finish. The Dutch Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) took the top step of the podium. Her teammate and compatriot Amy Pieters finished second and Belgian Lotte Kopecky took third place.
Guillaume Boivin and Hugo Houle will remain in Belgium and will take the start on Wednesday at the Trois jours de Bruges-La Panne. This race will be the last of their season. On the other hand, Tuesday will mark the start of the Tour of Spain in which Montrealer James Piccoli will participate for the first time.