Out In Front

Pedal Magazine - - Contents -

Canada’s Michael Woods (EF Ed­u­ca­tion First-Dra­pac p/b Can­non­dale) claimed the big­gest podium of his ca­reer, fin­ish­ing sec­ond at Liege-Bas­togne-Liege, “La Doyenne,” the old­est of the five Mon­u­ments first held in 1892.

Woods, 31, be­came the first-ever Cana­dian to podium at Liege-Bas­togne-Liege when he bested 31-year-old Ro­main Bardet (AG2R La Mon­di­ale) in a two-up sprint, fin­ish­ing 37 sec­onds af­ter Lux­em­bourger road cham­pion Bob Jun­gels (Quick-Step Floors) soloed to vic­tory.

“I strug­gled a lot at the start of the sea­son with ill­ness,” said Woods. “I didn’t have the sea­son start I wanted. To­day is the first day I ac­tu­ally felt like a bike racer again. I felt awe­some through­out the day and had re­ally great sup­port from the guys.”

The fourth Mon­u­ment of the sea­son un­folded pre­dictably un­til the fi­nal hour of rac­ing. Nine rid­ers slipped away in the open­ing 10 kilo­me­tres of the hilly 286-kilo­me­tre race.

By the time the pelo­ton reached La Red­oute, only Jerôme Baug­nies (BEL, Wanty-Groupe Gobert) re­mained at the head of af­fairs, and his gap hov­ered around the minute mark. Bahrain-Merida lifted the pace on the run-in to Roche-aux-Fau­cons, over­tak­ing Baug­nies just be­fore the penul­ti­mate climb. Fel­low Bel­gian Philippe Gil­bert (Quick-Step Floors) was the first of the dan­ger­men to make a move on the 1.4-kilo­me­tre as­cent.

Gil­bert’s move was coun­tered by Ser­gio He­nao (COL, Sky), who drew out Jun­gels, Woods and Jakob Fuglsang (DEN, As­tana). Jun­gels was the first to crest the of­fi­cial top of the climb and per­sisted with the ef­fort be­yond the sum­mit marker, im­me­di­ately open­ing up a gap.

“I was a bit to blame for that,” ad­mit­ted Woods. “I was right on his wheel, and I grabbed a gel when he went. He rode a strong and coura­geous race. I wouldn’t ex­pect any­thing less from him. He’s a classy guy.”

The long-range at­tack proved the race-win­ning move, as the chasers scram­bled to or­ga­nize. Sev­eral counter-at­tempts failed to gain clear­ance un­til Jelle Va­nen­dert (BEL, Lotto Souda) es­caped on Saint-Ni­co­las, five kilo­me­tres from the fin­ish. As the chase lulled, Bardet at­tacked.

“Bardet made an ex­cel­lent move,” said Woods. “I knew as soon as he went that it was the move to follow. I was able to get on his wheel, and we worked fairly well to­gether up the climb.”

For Woods, the re­sult is yet an­other con­fir­ma­tion of the po­ten­tial the team saw upon of­fer­ing him his first WorldTour con­tract three years ago.

“Jonathan Vaugh­ters told me I could win an Ar­dennes Clas­sics, and I didn’t be­lieve him when he first told me,” said Woods. “Now I’m start­ing to be­lieve.”

Woods’ par­ents were on hand to see his his­toric achieve­ment. Wife Elly Woods watched from the cou­ple’s in-sea­son home in Girona, Spain.

“My wife had some tough news a few days ago, and I re­ally wanted to get a good re­sult for her here,” Woods said. “I fin­ished the race and gave her a call. We shared a big smile. I’m re­ally happy to pull some­thing off for her and the team af­ter a tough start to the sea­son.” – PM

Fi­nal podium at 2018 Liege-Bas­togne-Liege (l-r) Michael Woods 2nd, Bob Jun­gels 1st,Ro­main Bardet 3rd

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