Woods Makes His­tory at Vuelta

Pedal Magazine - - Contents - by Chris Hat­ton

Canada’s Michael Woods (EF Ed­u­ca­tion

First-Dra­pac) con­tin­ued his in­cred­i­ble sea­son with a stel­lar per­for­mance at the 2018 Vuelta a

Es­paña, from Aug. 25 to Sept. 16, tak­ing a fab­u­lous vic­tory on the

157km Stage 17 from Getxo to Bal­cón de Bizkaia for his first-ever Grand

Tour stage win.

He cel­e­brated in the fog, rais­ing a sin­gle hand as he came across the line in first, too tired to truly cel­e­brate. And then he be­gan to cry. His amaz­ing win was over­shad­owed by the tragic loss of his son ear­lier this year, after he and his wife suf­fered a still­born last July.

“My wife had a still­birth two months ago,” Woods said in a heart­break­ing post-race in­ter­view. “We lost the lit­tle guy. His name was Hunter. The whole time I was go­ing up the climb, I was think­ing of him. I wanted to win so badly for him, and I did it.”

This would be the driv­ing force that pushed Woods up the fi­nal ex­cru­ci­at­ing 480-me­tre, 18% climb of the Bal­cón de Bizkaia, putting him out front of all com­pet­ing ri­vals, in­clud­ing top rid­ers such as Vin­cenzo Nibali (ITA, Bahrain-Merida) and Rafal Ma­jka (POL, BORA-hans­grohe), as well as Dy­lan

Te­uns (BEL, BMC Rac­ing Team) and David de la Cruz (ESP, Team Sky).

Team­mate Si­mon Clarke, al­ready a stage win­ner at the 2018 Vuelta a, Es­paña had ded­i­cated him­self to Woods, mark­ing all at­tempts from the lead­ing group. Launch­ing his own at­tack at the be­gin­ning of the fi­nal climb soft­ened the legs of the break­away, but it was the up­per slopes that were the most de­ci­sive.

De la Cruz set a tempo that saw all but Woods, Ma­jka and Te­uns fall away in the fi­nal 3 km. Woods marked an at­tack by Te­uns and an­other by De la Cruz be­fore launch­ing his own to take the win.

It took ev­ery­thing Woods had on the fi­nal bru­tal climb and he left it on the road. Woods fin­ished five sec­onds in front of Te­uns and 10 sec­onds ahead of De la Cruz, be­com­ing the sec­ond-ever Cana­dian to win a stage at the Span­ish Vuelta.

“I had Juanma [Garate, EF Pro Cy­cling sport di­rec­tor] in my ear telling me to do it for my fam­ily, and I just chan­neled all my en­ergy into think­ing how tough this year has been,” said

Woods. “I used my lit­tle guy Hunter as in­spi­ra­tion.”

The emo­tional vic­tory marked a mile­stone for Woods, who fin­ished sec­ond at Liège-Bas­togne-Liège this year and was also a close sec­ond at a stage of the Giro d’Italia. There was a feel­ing of not “if,” but “when” with Woods.

“To win is great,” said Jonathan Vaugh­ters, EF Pro Cy­cling CEO.

“To over­come the sad­ness he and his wife have been through truly makes me grate­ful & hum­ble [in hav­ing] some­one like Mike amongst us.”

Woods had been dubbed “Mr. Fourth Week” by the team for his in­creas­ing strength as the Grand Tour went on. Stage 17 marked what was likely his last op­por­tu­nity to make op­ti­mal use of his form.

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