The day before the 2023 edition of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec, I asked Hugo Houle if he planned on introducing any of his non-Canadian teammates to poutine. Apart from the four Canucks on the Israel-Premier Tech squad (Houle, Michael Woods, Guillaume Boivin and Derek Gee), there are two Aussies (Simon Clarke and Corbin Strong) and Daryl Impey from South Africa.
“No poutine yet. Maybe Monday,” Houle said, offering the day after the Montreal GP as possible poutine day. “Before the races, I don’t think it’s good.”
I countered his point. With all the calories that are in a serving of poutine, surely there’s enough to fuel a rider for a good chunk of Quebec’s 202 km covered on the 12.6-km city circuit over 16 laps or Montreal’s 221 km featuring 18 runs of the 12.3-km loop.
“Yeah, but poutine can be heavy in the stomach,” he said.
Then, he offered a shocking revelation.
“I’m not going to say the name of the rider, but someone has eaten some good ribs from St-Hubert, on the way back from Maryland,” he said. The previous Sunday, the squad raced the Maryland Cycling Classic. Houle was in the breakaway and took third on the day. On the way to Quebec City, one the riders dined on ribs from the restaurant chain that is throughout Quebec and parts of Eastern Ontario and New Brunswick. (It’s like Swiss Chalet, but that comparison will raise the ire of St-Hubert fans.) I pressed Houle for more details.
“I said I wouldn’t give any more information,” he replied.
I went for a softer approach, musing that it must be one of the Canadians. But Houle didn’t give away anything. So, we spoke about the Quebec races. Which race, the one in Quebec City or the one in Montreal, was his preferred course?
“For me, I’m kind of in between,” he said. “In Quebec, if I come to the final sprint in a group of 20, OK, I’m probably not the fastest. In Montreal, the course is a bit hard for me, but if I have the legs, I can be there. And with Montreal, it’s hard to say because I’ve never been there at the level I’m at now. At my top level, I believe I can play in Montreal. Since Wout van Aert and Tadej Pogačar aren’t there, maybe the race won’t be so fast and maybe I can be there.
“Montreal has almost 5,000 m of climbing. It’s a hard race no matter your rider profile. Quebec you can do more with experience and positioning. Power-wise, you might not have the best day, but if you’re where you need to be when it’s…