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Welcome to Gran Fondo USA >> Woods reflects on Worlds bronze: "I'm over the moon."

Woods reflects on Worlds bronze: "I'm over the moon." 

Three hundred meters from the finish line in Innsbruck, Austria, Canadian Mike Woods found himself in a race-winning position

The 31-year-old, fresh off his Vuelta a España stage win, had forced a selection on Höttinger Höll and was coming to the line with Alejandro Valverde (Spain), Tom Dumoulin (The Netherlands) and Romain Bardet (France).

Valverde opened up the four-up sprint that would decide who would wear the rainbow jersey in 2019.

Three hundred meters from the finish line in Innsbruck, Austria, Canadian Mike Woods found himself in a race-winning position

“I had a lot of confidence in my sprint, so my plan was to simply wait until 150 meters to go,” said Woods. “When Valverde opened at 300 meters, I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was going to beat him.”

As Woods dug deep to pour the last bit of power in his legs into the pedals, he cramped.

“I had missed my final bottle,” said Woods. “And I began to cramp super hard in both my calves and my hamstrings. I started pedaling squares and went from thinking ‘I could win this’ to ‘I hope I can carry myself across the line in front of Dumoulin.' ”

Woods managed to hang on for third place. Valverde took the win. Bardet settled for silver.

“I was disappointed in the immediate aftermath,” said Woods. “I can’t believe that I’m saying that now, but that’s how I truly felt when I crossed the line. At 200 meters to go, I thought I was going to beat Valverde, but once I started to cramp, my chances faded away.

“No matter how good you are, you won’t find yourself in a race-winning position with 300 meters to go that often at a World Championships,” said Woods. “To be that close and have it go out the window because of cramping, in that moment, it was disappointing. Now, after having 24 hours to think about it, I’m over the moon. I didn’t sleep last night. That’s how excited I was.”

Until he cramped with the finish line in sight, Woods had a dream race.

“The race played out pretty much as we had expected,” Woods explained. “I’m really fortunate to be riding for a federation – Cycling Canada – that is open to consultation and to ride for a team – EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale – that is so supportive of me. My federation director Kevin Field and my coach Paulo Saldanha are both aware of my strong relationship with my sport director Juanma Garate. They worked with him to try to understand how the race would play out.

“Through conversations with Juanma, we landed on a strategy that would have me play off France and use Alaphilippe as my reference,” Woods noted. “When we hit the final climb, all I had were three riders in front of me: Thibaut Pinot, Romain Bardet and Julian Alaphilippe. At that point, things had gone so to plan that I thought I might be dreaming.”

The last of seven laps of the 23.8 kilometer Inssbruck circuit veered from course to include the 2.9 kilometer Höttinger Höll. The climb included gradients as steep as 25 percent. Woods drew inspiration from a vocal crowd on the steepest slopes to initiate the move from which the podium would emerge.

Initially Gianni Moscon (Italy) made the selection. A second acceleration by Woods saw Moscon fall away. Dumoulin used the descent to claw his way back to the leaders, latching on with two kilometers left to race.

“When Tom caught us, all cohesion went out the window,” said Woods. “At that point, there was such little distance left, and with the work he did alone to bridge across while the rest of us worked together, I knew he’d pretty gassed from the effort.”

Dumoulin put in one last dig, without effect, as Woods bided his time. Valverde opened. Woods launched. And cramped.

Third.

“To be a bronze medalist at the world championships is not something that I could have dreamt of when I was working behind a teller stand at a bank a few years ago,” said Woods. “I think I started to show glimpses of these types of performances last year. This year, I’ve really stepped up my consistency and shown that now, as long as I am healthy, I can contend against the best riders in the world.

“This confidence and inner-belief has made racing at the WorldTour a lot less scary and a lot more fun.,” Woods added. “When I first started racing at this level, I spent half of my races in fear of crashing or getting dropped. I’m seeing bike racing far differently, and when it goes well, it is damn fun.”

Woods’ season is not over yet. He’ll line up for GP Emilia next weekend, and Il Lombardia the weekend after next. 

“As I get ready for my final few races this year and start shifting my focus to next year, I just hope I can continue to learn from these past results,” said Woods. “I’m aim to use this perspective to continue my progression in this sport and inspire more kids to get on bikes and more fans to cheer for a Canadian kicking it in the WorldTour." 

VIDEO: 2018 UCI World Championships Men's Elite Road Race Highlights

2018 UCI World Championships Elite Mens Road Race Top 10

1 Alejandro Valeverde (Spain) 6:46:41 
2 Romain Bardet (France)   
3 Michael Woods (Canada)   
4 Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands)   
5 Gianni Moscon (Italy) 0:00:13 
6 Romain Kreuziger (Czech Republic) 0:00:43 
7 Michael Valgren (Denmark)   
8 Julian Alaphilippe (France)   
9 Thibaut Pinot (France)   
10 Rui Costa (Portugal)  

EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale's own Mike Woods rode to a bronze medal this past Sunday in the UCI Road World Championships in Austria. After the race, Woods took a moment to answer some questions about the day:

1. How did the race play out compared to what you had discussed as a team?

The race played out pretty much as we had expected.  I am really fortunate to be riding for a federation (Cycling Canada) that is open to consultation and to ride for a team (EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale) that has been so supportive of me this season.  Our federation director Kevin Field, and my coach Paulo Saldanha, are well aware of the strong relationship that I have with Juan Manuel Garate, and they worked with him to try to get an idea of how the race would play out.  Ultimately the goal for me was to play off of France and use Alaphilippe as my reference.  When we hit the final climb, all I had were three riders in front of me, Thibaut Pinot, Romain Bardet, and Julian Alaphilippe.  At that point, things had gone so to plan that I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming.

2. What went right for you? Anything go wrong?

A lot of things went right for me this race.  My teammates rode well, we had representation in the breakaway and I had great legs. The only thing that went wrong, really, was the final 150m.  When Valverde opened up the sprint with 300m to go, I couldn’t believe it; I thought I was going to beat him.  However when I kicked it into my final gear and started to come around him I began to cramp super hard in both my calves and hamstrings.  I started pedalling squares and went from thinking I would win the race to worrying if I would have enough momentum to carry myself across the line in front of Dumoulin.

3. What was your strategy in the finale when you found yourself in a race-winning position?

I had a lot of confidence in my sprint, so my plan was to simply wait until 150m to go.  I think this was the right move, but I unfortunately missed my final bottle, and I cramped up super hard.

4. When Tom tagged on, how did that change the dynamic of the group?

Once Tom caught us, all cohesion went out the window, however, with such little distance left, and with him having to bridge across while the rest of us worked together I knew he would probably be pretty gassed from the effort.

5. Bronze. What was the immediate emotional reaction? How do you feel now?

Immediately after: disappointment. I can’t believe I am saying that now, but when I crossed the line that is what I truly felt. I honestly thought I was going to beat Valverde with even 200m to go, but once I started to cramp, I saw that fade away. No matter how good you are, you don’t get many opportunities to see yourself winning a world championships inside 300m to go. To be that close, and have it go away because of cramping, in that moment, was disappointing, but now, after having 24 hours to think about it, I am over the moon. I didn’t sleep last night; I was that excited. To be a bronze medalist at the World Championships is something that I could not have dreamed of when I was working behind a teller stand at a bank a few years ago.

6. Beyond the one day result, how do your recent performances shape your confidence and goals?

I think I started to show glimpses of these types of performances last year, however this year I feel as though I have really stepped up my consistency and shown that now, as long as I am healthy, I can contend against the best riders in the world. This confidence and inner-belief is making racing at the WorldTour a lot less scary and a lot more fun.  When I first started racing at this level, I spent half of my races in fear of crashing or getting dropped. I feel like I am now seeing bike racing far differently, and when it goes well, it is damn fun.  As I get ready for my final few races this year and start shifting my focus to next year, I just hope I can continue to learn from these past results and use this perspective to continue my progression in this sport and inspire more kids to get on bikes and more fans to cheer for a Canadian kicking it in the WorldTour.