Hugo Houle

Hugo Houle of Sainte-Perpétue, Que., on the top spot of the podium for the men’s individual time trial of the Pan Am Games. Photo: Ruby Photo Studio

On Friday, WorldTour team Astana announced that Hugo Houle would be joining its ranks for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. The rider has spent the past five seasons with Ag2r-La Mondiale, the French WorldTour team, which he joined following the dissolution of SpiderTech at the end of 2012.

“My move to Astana Team is a new, very serious challenge for me,” Houle said. “This is a chance to do a new step in my development. Astana is a Kazakh project, but, in the same time it is a big international team. After five years in an almost all-French team, I am curious to become a part of an international squad. Astana is known by its great ambitions in the Grand Tours and I will be happy to help the team both in the big races and the Classics, which I like so much.”

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During Houle’s tenure with Ag2r-La Mondiale, he’s grown as rider who can provide the necessary support in Classics. This past year, he rode in support of Oliver Naesen throughout the spring. The rider from Sainte-Perpétue, Que., who’s a strong supporter of maple syrup, is also no stranger to the Grand Tours. He’s currently in the midst of his first Vuelta a España. He rode the Giro d’Italia first in 2015 and again in 2016. So far, the Tour de France has eluded Houle. On an all-French team, it’s tough for a foreigner to get on the squad for that nation’s signature event.

Houle is more than a strong domestique. His time trial prowess has been improving during the past few years. He won gold in the TT at the 2015 Pan Am Games and was third in the Stage 5 TT in the 2015 Tour de San Luis.

For Astana, which has sent a squad to the Grands Prix Cyclistes de Québec et de Montréal, Houle is the team’s first Canadian. “We are interested in Hugo as a rider who could strengthen our team in the Spring Classic season,” said Alexandr Vinokurov, the team’s general manager. “Despite his youth, he has a huge experience in the biggest Classics, including Monuments Milan–San Remo, Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. At the same time, we have to remember that Houle is very young and still is looking for his own way in professional cycling. I think, besides supporting our leaders at the Classics, Hugo will have a chance to show himself. Today, our team will ride the Grand Prix de Québec and we are really happy to announce our new Canadian rider here in Canada. I am sure, for our partner Argon 18, it will be good news as well.”

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