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Hugo Houle on competing against his new boss

The new rider on Israel Start-Up Nation once had a lot of motivation for beating a fast master

Although Hugo Houle is new to Israel Start-Up Nation, he’s familiar with its principal owner, Sylvan Adams. Houle used to race against Adams in local Quebec races, when he was a junior and Adams was a master. “He was very fast and we’d often sprint against each other. Of course, you know, I was more motivated to get my 100 bucks in prize money than him,” Houle joked. “But he was also quick so he’d give me trouble. We haven’t spoken so much since then and now but I’ve always followed the progress of his team.”

Houle recently announced he would be leaving Astana, along with teammate Jakob Fuglsang, to head to ISUN. He’s joined by Steve Bauer, who is a new directeur sportif on the squad.

Steve Bauer moves to Israel Start-Up Nation as directeur sportif

On Tuesday, from in the middle of the in-field at Sylvan Adams National Velodrome in Tel Aviv, Houle mentioned that he was on his first trip to Israel, part of a team bonding camp. ISUN riders, along with members of the team staff and the pro continental team, Israel Cycling Academy, were at the velodrome to speak with roughly 60 young Israeli riders.

“It’s a very nice facility, and we saw all the infrastructure with the team,” Houle said. “It was nice to meet my new teammates, and that was very nice.”

The team had come to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem the day before. “I really like it. Tel Aviv is very relaxed. Jerusalem is a bit different, but also nice. It’s a nice way of living, and really good roads. I was surprised by the hills and all the trees. I didn’t expect it to be so green.”

It appears that ISUN will have a new sponsor, Premier Tech, based out of Rivière-du-Loup, Que. The team and the company have been in talks, and although nothing is formalized, they will be working together one way or another. Premier Tech was formally the co-sponsor of Astana, where Houle previously rode. Jean Bélanger from Premier Tech is speaking with Adams about the nature of the deal, and there should be an announcement soon.

“I’ve known Jean for about four years,” Houle said. “I met him when I arrived at Astana. We appreciate each other and know each other well.” Houle’s contract is assured on the team, irrespective of what ISUN and Premier Tech formalize. He has a contract with the team for the next three years. “They are talking with each other and trying to figure out the best way to partner. That’s the ultimate goal.”

As far as what Houle brings to the team, it’s depth. Houle hopes he can be a great teammate for Mike Woods and Guillaume Boivin. “It’s good to have a good leader but you need good teammates to put them in a good position, and that’s how I can contribute,” Houle added. This won’t be the first time he’s teammates with Boivin, over and above the national team. They rode for Spidertech a decade earlier, under Bauer’s leadership.

“It is kind of like Spidertech 2.0, with some of the riders, Steve, and even the soigneur, Jon Adams. But we, of course, are all a little better, and we have a much bigger budget.”

Houle’s personal goal is to keep improving. He’s headed into his 10th year as a WorldTour rider, and every year he gets a little better. “I like when people believe in you, they can push you to your potential. I want to keep progressing,” he said, “and I like everyone on the team and trust them. I have all the tools to be successful, it’s up to me to make the best of it.”

With reporting and editing by Matthew Pioro