Last week’s 2.1-rated Etoile de Bessèges-Tour du Gard in France was an important one for Canadians. Michael Leonard made his debut for Ineos Grenadiers and Hugo Houle placed eighth on GC, finishing just behind Thibaut Pinot atop Cat. 1 Le Mont Bouquet on Saturday’s queen stage.
Mattias Skjelmose (Denmark/Trek-Segafredo) won that queen stage and led American Neilson Powless (EF Education-Easypost) by four seconds going into Sunday’s concluding time trial, but Powless would win the 53rd edition by a single second. Pierre Latour rounded out the podium.
Eighteen-year-old Leonard, the only Canadian in the WorldTour, was 26th in Sunday’s chrono and came in 86th overall. His next test is the one-day Spanish race Vuelta Ciclista a la Región de Murcia Costa Cálida on February 11.
Houle’s eighth in the Etoile de Besseges comes after his season opener, January 29’s Grand Prix Cycliste de Marseille La Marseillaise, where he placed 19th.
Houle’s Israel-Premier Tech teammate and compatriot Guillaume Boivin also contested the Grand Prix Cycliste de Marseille La Marseillaise, where he was 18th, and the Etoile de Bessèges, which he did not finish.
All of Israel-Premier Tech’s Canadians have raced this season save Michael Woods. He’ll debut at the 69th Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista Del Sol stage race starting Feb. 15.