Member of the breakaway of the day on Wednesday, Hugo Houle was surrounded by high-caliber riders during the fifth stage of the Tour de France. With several hungry title contenders, the Israel-Premier Tech cyclist preferred to play it safe.
Winner of the Giro d’Italia last year, Jai Hindley (Bora – Hansgrohe) was one of them. He was the first to cross the finish line on the 162.7 kilometer course, comprising three climbs. At the same time, the Australian takes the yellow jersey of the leader in the provisional general classification.
After two stages in a row where the sprinters settled the score, Houle wanted to try his hand at the front.
A breakaway of 36 cyclists formed at the start of the race and the athlete from Sainte-Perpétue was there with his teammate Kris Neilands, from Latvia.
“Given the quality of this very strong group, there was a lot of pressure. When the yellow jersey is still within everyone’s reach, it leaves a lot of players on the field. I knew it was going to be complicated to do anything on this stage,” explained the Quebecer.
“It was going a little too hard for me. I quickly understood that I was not going to win the stage and I did not insist too much on wasting my energy. […] My form is good and these are encouraging signs, but you have to be rational. I have to play as smart as possible and I was not competitive against these guys who want to win the Tour. The race is young, there are a lot of stages left,” explained Houle.
Italian Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek) and Austrian Felix Gall (AG2R Citroen) completed the top three of the day, trailing the solo winner by 32 seconds.
Behind, the Dane Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) attacked 20 kilometers from the finish. An acceleration that will benefit him in the general classification, since his main rival Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) was unable to respond. Fifth of the day (34 seconds), Vingegaard, reigning champion of the Tour de France, is now second in the provisional general classification, 47 seconds behind Hindley.
He thus gave himself a priority of 53 seconds over Pogacar, eighth on Wednesday among a group of ten riders.
The sixth stage of 144.9 kilometers will take place on Thursday. The start is scheduled in Tarbes and will end at the top of Cauterets-Cambasque.
On the Italian side, Magdeleine Vallières-Mill took 59th place in the sixth stage of the Giro. The EF Education-TIBCO-SVB cyclist finished 6 minutes 24 seconds behind the winner, Dutch Annemiek Van Vleuten (Movistar).
Holder of the yellow jersey, Van Vleuten finished ahead of her compatriot Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx, 20 seconds) and her German teammate Liane Lippert.
“There are four stages left to defend third place and I believe we will be able to keep it or even move up one place on the podium! Vallières-Mill had launched on Tuesday, about her American teammate Veronica Ewers.
She had hit the nail on the head. Ewers finished 18th in this sixth stage and is now second in the provisional general classification.
The seventh stage will be held over 109.1 kilometers, from Albenda to Alassio.