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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

With the greater part of rich people, the chief enjoyment of riches consists in the parade of riches. - Adam Smith

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Michael Woods reflects on World Road Championships third place

Woods' EF Education First-Drapac team sent me this:

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.

Michael Woods

The 2018 Worlds podium, from left: Romain Bardet (2nd), Alejandro Valverde (1st) & Michael Woods (3rd). Sirotti photo

“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."

Quick-Step Floors to Binche-Chimay-Binche and Münsterland Giro

Here's the racing update from the team:

The first days of October will see the Wolfpack in action in Belgium and Germany, respectively.

Held in the Hainaut province, Binche-Chimay-Binche (197.4 kilometers) will see the riders take on a hilly and testing course which includes several laps of a circuit that should spice up the race and bring plenty of excitement. The last 1500 meters feature two cobbled sections and an uphill drag to the finish, where some squads will most likely try to split what already should be a thinned out field and bring their riders in a good position so that they can go for the win.

World Tour team classification leader Quick-Step Floors will have several cards to play on this terrain at the 31st edition of the Memorial Frank Vandenbroucke, as it comes here with a solid and well-rounded team, comprising 2014 winner Zdenek Stybar, Dries Devenyns, Philippe Gilbert – who returned to the peloton last week, scoring a beautiful victory in Grand Prix d'Isbergues – stagiaire Mikkel Honoré, Fabio Jakobsen, Belgian Champion Yves Lampaert and Ronde van Vlaanderen victor Niki Terpstra.

Jasper de Buyst

Jasper de Buyst wins the 2017 edition.

"Binche-Chimay-Binche is a hard race and this year it could be made even more difficult by the weather, as strong winds and rain are forecasted for Tuesday. This means we could be in for some tricky local laps with slippery cobblestones, but nevertheless, we are up for the challenge", said sports director Rik van Slycke.

Scheduled one day later, Münsterland Giro (Coesfeld – Münster, 198 kilometers) has a slightly undulated course, but that shouldn't prevent the sprinters from fighting for victory at the end of the day. Backed by a strong squad consisting of Rémi Cavagna, Tim Declercq, Iljo Keisse, Jhonatan Narvaez, trainee Barnabás Peák and Florian Sénéchal, Fernando Gaviria will try to get in the mix and battle for what would be his tenth victory of the season.

Geert Van Bondt, who will guide the squad from the car at the 13th edition of the German race, talked of Wednesday's appointment: "The race should come down to a bunch sprint and our team is motivated and capable of making the difference when it will matter. We have a strong outfit, which will be led by Fernando, but we won't take anything for granted, just try and make a good race and get another nice result as the season nears a conclusion."

Team Sunweb's upcoming races

Sunweb sent me this update:

SPARKASSEN MÜNSTERLAND GIRO (1.HC)
Team Sunweb coach Tom Veelers (NED): "The plan in Münsterland is to go for a sprint result with Max [Walscheid]. Roy will be our captain at the race and we'd like to kick off the sprint with Mike, Edward and Max [Kanter] in the lead-out. We hope that this will be a good chance for Max to take his good form from the Vuelta into the sprint and hopefully show a good result." 

RACE: Sparkassen Münsterland Giro (1.HC)

DATE: 03/10/2018

COACHES: Tom Veelers (NED) 

LINE-UP
Roy Curvers (NED)
Lennard Kämna (GER)
Max Kanter (GER)
Tom Stamsnijder (NED)
Mike Teunissen (NED)
Edward Theuns (BEL)
Max Walscheid (GER) 

Roy Curvers

Roy Curvers will be on the line for the Sparkassen Münsterland Giro. Sirotti photo

PARIS-BOURGES (UCI 1.1)
Team Sunweb coach Sebastian Deckert (GER): "This will be the first race for our freshly-crowned U23 world champion Marc. Paris-Bourges is a race with classic-like characteristics at 190.3 kilometres in length and climbs littered along the course. We line up with a young team and our aim is to be active and ride aggressively. We expect that the wind will have a big influence on the race so we need to remain sharp, especially in the hilly middle section of the parcours. It's likely that a small group could go away to the line, but also a reduced bunch sprint is a possibility and we have options for both potential outcomes." 

RACE: Paris-Bourges (UCI 1.1)

DATE: 04/10/2018

COACH: Sebastian Deckert (GER) 

LINE-UP
Nils Eekhoff (NED)
Leon Heinschke (GER)
Marc Hirschi (SWI)
Niklas Märkl (GER)
Jarno Mobach (NED)
Florian Stork (GER) 

PARIS-TOURS (1.HC)
Team Sunweb coach Marc Reef (NED): "The parcours have changed this year in comparison to previous years, with 12.5 kilometres of dirt roads into the last 65 kilometres of the race, which will give the final a new dimension. Søren will be our leader for the day and we will race offensively from the gun and try to be in the early break. In the final we'll work to move with the important moves that go so that we can support Søren for as long as possible. We expect that in the end it will be a selective group of riders that will go for the win and we hope to be amongst the contenders." 

RACE: Paris-Tours (UCI 1.HC)

DATE: 07/10/2018

COACH: Marc Reef (NED) 

LINE-UP
Søren Kragh Andersen (DEN)
Cees Bol (NED)
Simon Geschke (GER)
Max Kanter (GER)
Martijn Tusveld (NED)
Tom Stamsnijder (NED)
Max Walscheid (GER) 

PARIS-TOURS ESPOIRS (1.2U)
Team Sunweb coach Sebastian Deckert (GER): "The characteristics of Paris-Tours Espoirs have changed in comparison to previous years with some short and steep hills in the final. On top of this there are now nine gravel sections that will make the race really tough. The number of riders in each team has also changed and with five riders the race isn't easy to predict. We want to show ourselves in this race and we are looking forward to lining up for a result with our new U23 world champion Marc." 

RACE: Paris-Tours Espoirs (1.2U)

DATE: 07/10/2018

COACH:Sebastian Deckert (GER) 

LINE-UP
Nils Eekhoff (NED)
Marc Hirschi (SWI)
Niklas Märkl (GER)
Jarno Mobach (NED)
Florian Stork (GER) 

TOUR OF TURKEY (WT)
Team Sunweb coach Tom Veelers (NED): "We head to Turkey with ambitions in the sprints with Edward. It's his first race back after his injury sustained at the Tour of Britain, but after a few weeks of rest off the bike he's back feeling good and motivated for some good results in Turkey. We have Mike and Nikias, who's also our road captain, as the guys in the lead-out for Edward." 

RACE: Tour of Turkey (WT)

DATE: 07-14/10/2018

COACH: Tom Veelers (NED) 

LINE-UP
Nikias Arndt (GER)
Roy Curvers (NED)
Johannes Fröhlinger
Laurens ten Dam (NED)
Mike Teunissen (NED)
Edward Theuns (BEL)
Louis Vervaeke (BEL) 

TRE VALLI VARESINE (1.HC)
Team Sunweb coach Arthur van Dongen (NED): "We head to Italy with a really strong squad who are really motivated for a good race. After a long uphill section in the middle, the most difficult part of the race comes on the local laps where there are two short climbs. If a break goes here we have Wilco and Sam who will work to be in a good group, but if a bigger group goes to the finish we will search for a good result with Michael who took a clean sweep in the Canadian races and is in good shape." 

RACE: Tre Valli Varesine (1.HC)

DATE: 09/10/2018

COACH: Arthur van Dongen (NED) 

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