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Hugo Houle: “It’s always a shock”

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PHOTO FRANCK FIFE, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE ARCHIVES

Italian cyclist Davide Rebellin died on Wednesday after being hit by a truck driver while riding his bicycle.

Like the entire cycling community, Hugo Houle received as a shock the news of the tragic death of Davide Rebellin, hit by a trucker during an outing in Italy, just a month and a half after his retirement at the venerable age of 51. years, Wednesday.

Without being close to him, Houle occasionally met the Italian in the Monaco region, he who lived in Menton, a few kilometers away, with his wife Françoise.

Precisely, on Sunday, the Quebec cyclist took part with Rebellin in the Beking criterium in the principality, a charity event intended for young people in which the many professionals of the place participate. In an evening gala, Houle saw the dean of the peloton honored for his career with Belgian Philippe Gilbert, another new retiree with whom he shared the distinction of a masterful Ardennes hat-trick (Amstel Gold Race–Flèche Wallonne–Liège-Bastogne -Cork).

Three days later, Houle was on a bicycle when Rebellin was hit by the driver of a semi-trailer truck in a roundabout, about ten kilometers from the family residence in northeastern Italy. . The driver continued on his way before coming to a stop, surveillance cameras revealed. The driver got out for a few seconds to see what had happened before leaving, without it being known if he had realized that he had just hit a cyclist. It was Rebellin’s brother who discovered the inert body.

It’s always a shock. It reminds us that life is fragile. It’s sad to see that.

Hugo Houle, on the death of Davide Rebellin

The Israel-Premier Tech member was unaware of the details of the accident at the time of the interview. He felt like Rebellin had gone riding near his home in Menton, across the border between France and Italy. He wondered if he hadn’t taken the same route the day before.

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“It is true that there are several city crossings in Italy where there is a lot more traffic. It moves a lot, you have to be careful. Sometimes the tanks don’t stop. It can be a moment of inattention or that we are not seen. It’s part of everyday life, we share the road with the cars and we are much smaller. Of course we are vulnerable. »

Rebellin began his career the day after his participation in the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. The renowned puncher played 30 professional seasons. In addition to his successes in the Ardennes, he signed some prestigious successes by winning Tirreno-Adriatico, Paris-Nice and the Classic San Sebastian.

PHOTO FRANCK FIFE, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE ARCHIVES

Davide Rebellin in 2007

His career took a turn for the worse in 2008 when his silver medal at the Beijing Olympics was stripped after he tested positive for recombinant EPO (CERA). Cleared by Italian courts years later, he never regained his medal or quite managed to regain his virginity.

Houle especially remembers having rubbed shoulders with the Italian when he played for the Polish CCC (from 2013 to 2016). He was known as an affable, shy and reserved man who rode with passion. At the time of his accident, he was riding a gravel bike, a new discipline he intended to embrace.

“It’s still special, agreed Houle about this atypical course. It doesn’t matter who the person is, whether it’s a professional or not, it’s always cruel. You’re going to do what you like, a little bike ride, and then you never come home. »

The stage winner at the last Tour de France can unfortunately testify to this. In December 2012, his younger brother Pierrik experienced the same disastrous fate when he was caught while jogging in Saint-Perpétue by a drunk driver.

“It leaves traces, traces for the whole family,” said Houle. Each time, it reminds us that an accident can happen quickly. When you drive, you sometimes want to go fast between cars. We are in our training, we pass a little quickly on a traffic light, a stop sign. You have to take it easy, calm down a bit. »

“Stop the massacre”, implored the daily The Gazetta dello Sport on his prima pagina Wednesday. Rebellin’s death joins those of Michele Scarponi, killed in similar circumstances in 2017, and Marco Pantani, another cycling champion who died prematurely.

Recovery in Mallorca

PHOTO DOMINICK GRAVEL, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Hugo Houle

After a stint in Japan and Singapore, where he rode in front of tens of thousands of fans in exhibition criteriums sponsored by the Tour de France organizing company, Houle returned to training in earnest in mid-November. . When answering the call of The Press, he was returning from a first outing in the greater region of Girona, Spain, where Israel-Premier Tech is holding an internship in anticipation of the next season. The first to arrive among the riders, he rode alongside bosses Jean Bélanger and Sylvan Adams. “Morale is good,” assured Houle, who is still awaiting confirmation from the UCI of his team’s relegation to the second division. “The deadlines are approaching, we should have some news. Actions were taken by Sylvan, who commissioned a law firm, but I have no idea where the file is. If all goes according to plan, the 32-year-old will return to competition in the Mallorca Challenge at the end of January.

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Cycling

Surprise retirement for Peter Sagan

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PHOTO LUCA BETTINI, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE ARCHIVES

Peter Sagan

(Paris) Puncher of panache, it is without warning that the Slovak cyclist Peter Sagan announced Friday in San Juan, Argentina, his retirement from the road at the end of the season in order to devote himself to mountain biking with a view to the Games Olympics 2024.

“This is my last year on the road as a professional”, declared in Italian during an improvised press conference the triple world champion (2015, 2016, 2017), who won 12 stages of the Tour de France during his career. , the Tour of Flanders 2016 and Paris-Roubaix in 2018.

“Next year, I will stay with Total Energies to devote myself to qualifying for the 2024 Olympic Games in mountain biking,” continued the 33-year-old rider, 35e at the Rio Games in 2016, entered this week in the Tour de San Juan, in Argentina.

In 2024, “I will do some minor races,” said Sagan, who no longer plans to line up in the World Tour next year and will retire from sport after the Olympic mountain bike event.

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This surprise announcement is in line with the career of this accomplished showman, who has often made headlines for his sometimes surreal interviews, his whimsical celebrations, but also his deviations, such as when he pinched the buttocks of a hostess during of the Tour of Flanders in 2013.

“I’m here to have fun”

Beyond the show, however, it is on the roads that Sagan has gained wide popularity, especially on the Tour de France where this formidable sprinter reigned almost unchallenged on the green jersey between 2012 and 2019, winning it seven times. , a record.

He earned the nickname “Hulk”, only his exclusion from the Tour for a nudge in 2017 preventing him from achieving an unprecedented series.

But Sagan is more than a sprinter: proof of his versatility, he won the green jersey twice (2014, 2015) without winning a single stage, showing himself to be at ease in the bumps to counter the fighters, his multiple attacks spicing soporific stages.

“I’m here to have fun. Doing your job without taking pleasure, I don’t see the point. Spending the day in the peloton, without trying anything, very little for me”, he explained in 2015.

“He does cycling a lot of good. He has panache. It brings freshness. He really is a runner who thrills the crowds”, greeted in 2017 the Belgian Eddy Merckx, generally considered the greatest runner in history, who already in 2015 found “incredible that a runner of his talent earns so little “.

Sagan has since made history in his sport, achieving a historic hat-trick from 2015 to 2017 at the World Championships. Richmond (USA), Doha (Qatar), Bergen (Norway): in three different continents and with varied scenarios, Sagan has equaled the total of victories of… Merckx or another legend, Alfredo Binda.

In 13 years of professional career, the Slovak has also won four stages of the Vuelta and two in the Giro, also taking the cyclamen jersey during the 2021 edition of the Tour of Italy.

Less radiant in recent years, Sagan did not hide his fatigue from the world of cycling, leaving uncertainty about his future.

“I am happy that a career does not take too many years”, he declared at the end of 2018 in an interview with the Dutch magazine Fiets. “It is impossible for me to imagine myself still fifteen years in this world of cycling. »

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Cycling

Both role model and mentor

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PHOTO PROVIDED BY RÉBECCA BEAUMONT

Rebecca Beaumont

Increase the female presence in local mountain bike competitions as well as in coaching groups. This is one of the missions of Rébecca Beaumont, who spent 10 years on the World Cup circuit before retiring in 2019. Interview.

At the beginning of January, Rébecca Beaumont accompanied the Quebec mountain bike team to a training camp in Spain as well-being director. A title more unofficial than official, she warns, but that she made sure to honor and that she loved. She acted, in a way, as a confidante for the 16 athletes.

” Basically, [les dirigeants] need women now in the business after all that has happened recently in the sporting world, she explains. […] They asked me to make sure everyone got along. By being the only girl in the group of coaches, sometimes the young people come to talk to me a little more and confide in me. »

“Having a woman as a coach, I think it’s really fun for them. I remember in my years, from time to time there was a woman who accompanied us and sometimes rode with us. It became a bit of a model for me. »

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Beaumont also wants to encourage more women to participate in local competitions. In 2020 and 2021, when she retired from international football, she migrated to downhill and enduro, disciplines in which few women indulge.

Often I signed up to encourage other girls to sign up. To show that there are also girls who sign up, that this sport is also for girls.

Rebecca Beaumont

In 2022, the Almatoise, who now lives in Orford, has regained a taste for cross-country, her favorite discipline. Seeing, once again, the insufficient number of female athletes, she decided to continue to participate in local competitions.

“When I see that there aren’t many, I try to encourage the movement,” she says.

get up

In addition to being a role model, Rébecca Beaumont also intends to be a mentor for young people. The one she never had to accompany her in the world of international cycling, in which “there is a lot of politics”. The engineer by profession also plans to have her own team within the International Cycling Union (UCI).

“I could organize the competitions, manage the sponsorships because that’s really what got me going in my career. Having to manage Instagram, contracts…”

Several other experiences from her background make her an interesting mentor. The 33-year-old had a long and successful career, which was nonetheless punctuated by injuries. In 2011, she suffered a concussion that kept her off her bike and lost her spot on the national team. She still keeps the scars. But she came back afterwards to experience her long career on the World Cup circuit, which remains one of her greatest sources of pride.

I often talk about it with young people because we somewhat underestimate what it is, a concussion. It got to a point where I couldn’t do my grocery shopping myself. I’m happy to be back, to have started training again, to have managed to get back on the bike.

Rebecca Beaumont

Beaumont also had to contend with a shoulder injury that she dragged on for too long. By the time she retired, she had dislocated her shoulders “about 50 times on each side,” she notes. “It had gotten to the point where it could dislocate when I sneezed. »

After a major operation, she went through a long rehabilitation before continuing the sport once again, just differently.

Still, retirement hasn’t been easy. The athlete had to “redefine [son] identify “. At the start of 2023, we feel that she is in her place. She’s not the least bit nostalgic.

“I think I’m somewhere else now. I prefer to act as a coach or as a mentor than as an athlete. And live different challenges with these young people, try to give them advice. »

Let’s say she is equipped to do so.

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Cycling

Mark Cavendish bounces back at Astana

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PHOTO STEPHANE MAHE, ARCHIVES REUTERS

Mark Cavendish

(Paris) British sprinter Mark Cavendish, in search of a final stage victory in the Tour de France to hold alone the record he shares with Eddy Merckx, has signed up with the Kazakh team of Astana, announced it on Tuesday.

“I have had a long career already but my joy of pedaling and my thirst for victories are as great as ever,” said the 37-year-old veteran in the press release announcing his arrival in the team of former star Alexander Vinokourov. of the peloton.

“I ran with him for many years and now I’m going to run with his two sons! added Cavendish who signed for one season.

At the end of his contract with the Belgian team Quick-Step, which had given up on the Grande Boucle in 2022, the rider from the Isle of Man was close to signing up with the French formation B & B Hôtels before it does not decline, for lack of finding the sponsor it was looking for.

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The Briton, after a few lackluster years, made a resounding comeback during the 2021 Tour de France, winning the green jersey as well as four stages to equal Eddy Merckx’s stage success record.

He lacks just one to surpass the Belgian legend’s 34 victories and he has shown again in 2022 that he is competitive, notably winning Milan-Turin in March and his 16e stage of the Giro in May.

“He’s the best sprinter of all time,” insisted Alexander Vinokourov, opening the doors of his team to him, which is coming out of a complicated season with only five victories in all and for all.

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