Hugo Houle (Israel-Premier Tech) powered to victory on stage 16 of the Tour de France, his solo attack too strong for the breakaway to contend with up the final climb.
The Canadian attacked at the base of the final category one climb of Mur de Péguère, with over 30km remaining on the stage and a difficult ascent to contend with. His attack managed to stick, though, and upon reaching the summit he had a 26-second time advantage.
Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar) and Michael Woods (Israel-Premier Tech) gave chase, but a crash by Jorgenson during the fast descent allowed Houle to extend his lead out front. Jorgenson caught back up to Woods, but faced a solo effort in reducing the deficit as Woods attempted to benefit his teammate as much as possible.
Ultimately, the attempt was in vain, as Houle went onto emotionally cross the line first. Houle's stage 16 victory is his first win on the WorldTour, let alone at a Grand Tour.
Meanwhile, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) launched multiple attacks on both the ascents and descents of the stage, but Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) answered each one with a compelling response. Consequently, the Dane holds onto the yellow jersey for stage 17, a short but albeit difficult mountain stage in the Pyrenees.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Following a rest day, the Tour de France resumed with a 178.5km stage from Carcassonne to Foix.
Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) came into the final week wearing the yellow jersey, his lead over second-placed Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) 2-22. Stages in the Pyrenees are still to come, though, and anything can happen with the penultimate day time trial.
Stage 16 started with 29 riders forming a breakaway, which largely remained the order of the day. Wout Van Aert and Nathan Van Hooydonck from Jumbo-Visma, and Brandon McNulty from UAE Team Emirates were part of the leading group, meaning Vingegaard had three other riders from his team alongside him in the peloton, while Pogačar had four.
Georg Zimmerman (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Quin Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) and Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco) soon broke from the bunch shortly after, eager to gain ground on the already distanced breakaway.
Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-EasyPost) passed the summit of the Côte de Saint-Hilaire first, but with two category one climbs later to come on the stage, it wasn't particularly contested. Alexis Gougeard (B&B Hotels-KTM) then decided to attack from the break solo, and, with 30km gone, the Frenchman had built up 50 seconds. The trio of Zimmerman, Simmons and Matthews was a further two minutes back, while the peloton sat 5-45 behind.
The trio of riders caught in no-man's land soon gave up their chase to join the break, dropping back as Gougeard was eventually caught.
With 100km remaining, the 29-rider breakaway had 6-40 on the peloton, which continued to rise over the next 40km. By the time they reached the category one climb of Port de Lers - an 11.1km ascent at 6.9% - the distance stood at 8-45.
However, the 29 riders weren't all together by this point of the stage, with half of the break being dropped on the early stages of the climb. Indeed, an attack by Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious) opened up a gap, with Michael Storer (Groupama-FDJ) and Michael Woods (Israel-Premier Tech) joining him 5km later.
A group of Van Aert, McNulty, Simon Geschke (Cofidis) and Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar) formed heading up the mountain, and they soon caught the leading three riders with a kilometre left of the climb. Geschke picked up the maximum KOM points, as the group headed onto the descent.
Further back, Pogačar attacked. However, it failed to stick on Vingegaard, who powerfully responded on the ascent. Straggling riders from the breakaway were soon caught during this period, with David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) then trying his luck. Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), though, swiftly shut down that attempt.
As the peloton reached the summit, Pogačar attempted another attack yet again, throwing everything he had at the descent to drop Vingegaard. The yellow jersey wearer managed to follow, but the Slovenian's intentions for the final climb seemed clear.
The breakaway soon welcomed five further riders, taking the group up to 11 riders. At the base of the final climb of Mur de Péguère - a 9.1km climb at 7.8% - Hugo Houlle (Israel-Premier Tech) attacked. The Canadian rider managed to build a gap of 40 seconds heading up the climb, with Jorgenson, Woods and Storer in pursuit, as Van Aert dropped back.
The GC contenders remained a further eight minutes back, with Thomas and Yates losing ground. Vingegaard had Sepp Kuss with him, while Pogačar had Rafał Majka. Nairo Quintana (Arkéa Samsic) was also there. Thomas, Yates and Gaudu gradually caught back up, but Majka had a mechanical problem during the climb, allowing Kuss to take over. Thomas, Yates and Gaudu were consequently dropped once again.
Houle crossed the summit of the Mur de Péguère 26 seconds ahead of Jorgenson and Woods, with Storer having fallen away from the pair. A descent of 25km remained at this stage.
Geraint Thomas managed to catch back to the GC group, with the help of teammate
Daniel Martínez who had waited at the top of the climb for him after being part of the breakaway. Van Aert and McNulty also waited for their teammates, helping drag their teammates along.
With 15km remaining, Houle had a gap of of over 30 seconds to Jorgenson and Woods as he confidently descended the mountain. Unfortunately, Jorgenson carried too much entry speed into one of the corners as his front wheel slipped and he consequently crashed. He did manage to get back on the bike, but had lost a lot of time to Houle.
By the time Jorgenson caught up with Woods, the pair were 45 seconds behind with 8km to go on the stage. The American tried his best to reduce the deficit, but the gap kept rising as Houle continued to stamp on the pedals, desperate for his first Grand Tour victory.
He ultimately achieved it, finishing 1-10 ahead of Valentin Maduoas (Groupama-FDJ), who overtook Woods and Jorgenson in the final metres. Wood finished third.
Meanwhile, the main GC contenders all finished together.
TOUR DE FRANCE 2022, STAGE 16 RESULTS
1. Hugo Houle (Can) Israel-Premier Tech, in 4-23-47
2. Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 1-10
3. Michael Woods (Can) Israel-Premier Tech, at same time
4. Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar, at 1-12
5. Michael Storer (Aus) Groupama-FDJ), at 1-25
6. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-40
7. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Victorious, at same time
8. Simon Geschke (Ger) Cofidis, at 2-11
9. Mathieu Burgaudeau (Fra) TotalEnergies, at 5-04
10. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain-Victorious, at same time
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 16
1. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, in 64-28-09
2. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 2-22
3. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 2-43
4. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkea-Samsic, at 4-15
5. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 4-24
6. Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 5-28
7. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert Matériaux, at 5-46
8. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 6-18
9. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM, at 6-37
10. Tom Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 10-11
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