Canadian cyclist Hugo Houle’s schedule hampered by coronavirus

Hugo Houle, of Canada, competes in the men's individual time trial event at the 2016 Summer Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. (Bryn Lennon/AP)

MONTREAL — Canadian cyclist Hugo Houle is sidelined in Monaco for at least the next two weeks because of the threat of the novel coronavirus, meaning he’ll miss at least one race in France.

Houle, of Ste-Perpetue, Que., found out along with everyone else on Thursday that his team, Astana, was suspending activities until March 20 because of the threat of COVID-19. He no longer will compete in the Paris-Nice race, which begins Sunday.

The 29-year-old cyclist, who competed for Canada at the 2016 Rio Olympics and also raced in the 2019 Tour de France, said the Kazakh team did not give any particular health directive.

The cycling season has been turned on its head this week with races being cancelled and teams withdrawing from events as a precaution.

Houle performs numerous training trips between Monaco and neighbouring Italy — the most impacted European country outside of Asia, with a total of 148 deaths as of Thursday evening. But he has not noticed much of a change in Italy.

He says the roads are always busy, the coastal villages are crowded as usual and no one is wearing a mask.

Houle says there’s no panic in France or in other neighbouring countries, adding he took part in a competition last weekend in Belgium where everything went normally.

If the situation doesn’t worsen in Europe, Houle says he intends to take part in five Belgian tests later this month, starting from Gand-Wevelgem on March 29 .

He would then continue with the Tour of Flanders and the Paris-Roubaix in northern France, before resuming his support role with Astana’s leader, Jakob Fuglsang, during the ‘Ardennaises’.

Then, if all goes well, his season will culminate with the Tour de France, from June 27 to July 19, and the Tokyo Olympics, with road event and individual time trials scheduled for July 25 and 29, respectively.

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