Posted by Editoress on 09/30/18
Mike Woods became the first Canadian man in 34 years to win a medal in the Elite men's road race at the world championships on Sunday in Innsbruck, Austria, when he took the bronze medal in a four rider sprint. Steve Bauer is the only other Canadian man to win a medal - also bronze - in 1984, in Barcelona. Alejandro Valverde of Spain won the title, with Romain Bardet of France taking silver.
For Canada, it was the likely the strongest Road Worlds ever, with Canadian riders finishing with two bronze medals, a fourth, two fifths, a sixth and an eighth. in addition, Canadian riders were on Team Time Trial squads that won silver and bronze. In the nation rankings, Canada finished a remarkably strong fourth, behind the Netherlands, Italy and Belgium, but ahead of cycling powerhouses such as Australia, France, Denmark and Spain.
"This performance by Mike was absolutely amazing," said Louis Barbeau, Team Manager for the world championships. "It concludes an equally amazing world championships, where Canada had tremendous success. It started off on a very good note with the Junior women's time trial [fifth for Simone Boilard], and then the Elite women's time trial [fourth by Leah Kirchmann and eighth from Karol-Ann Canuel], and the Junior women's road race [bronze medal for Boilard] ... everybody contributed to our success. And then Mike's bronze medal, the first in the [Elite men's] road race since 1984."
"I think it illustrates the fact that road cycling is healthy in Canada, and that we can compete with the best in the world. It looks promising for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, in 2020. It's also very important to thank all the staff for the incredible amount of work they did and their dedication throughout this project. Their contributions made this possible."
The 258 kilometre men's race had the most climbing in recent memory, finishing with a three kilometre climb that reached a maximum gradient of 28% before dropping back down to the finish line in the center of Innsbruck.
Elevation Gain: 4681m
Rob Britton in the break
Canada's Rob Britton was a member of an early 11 rider breakaway that took a massive 20 minute lead before the rest of the peloton began to reel them in. Britton was out in the break for nearly 200 kilometres before being caught, eventually finishing 76th.
"It was important for us to get in the break and that was my plan from the get-go," explained Britton. "I tried to conserve energy the best that I could, so I could be there until the end, to help Mike. We're a small cycling country, but we used our riders the best we could, with Hugo and Antoine taking care of Mike, and myself in the break. But I got caught on a brutal section of the second last climb and couldn't go with them. For sure, this was the hardest day of bike racing I have ever done."
For the main field, the race became one of attrition, as more and more riders were dropped on each of the seven laps of the 7.5 kilometre Igls climb. Woods remained calm and protected in the field by team mates Antoine Duchesne and Hugo Houle, and stayed near the front as the field gradually shrank.
On the seventh lap, attacks split the field, with roughly 20 riders hitting the base of the punishing Höll [Hell] climb 30 seconds behind leader Michael Valgren Andersen (Denmark). The race was quickly pared down to Woods, Valverde, Bardet and Gianni Moscon (Italy). Woods was clearly the dominant rider on the climb, moving to the front and setting the pace. He dropped Moscon, but could not shake Valverde and Bardet, and the three went over the top of the climb together, chased by Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands), less than 10 seconds behind.
The trio reached the bottom of the descent ahead of Dumoulin, but the Dutch rider joined them with 1500 metres to go. Valverde led out the sprint, with Woods and Bardet both on his wheel as Dumoulin faded. Less than 100 metres from the line, Woods was hit by leg cramps and had to ease up, holding on for third.
Podium: Romain Bardet, Alejandro Valverde, Mike Woods
Sagan congratulates Mike Woods
"I was hoping I could do as well as Steve has done in the past, and get Canadians inspired to ride bikes," said Woods. "I felt confident and pretty excited about the course, especially when we did recon - that final climb suited me. After a couple of hours on the bike, I started to think 'yeah, this is going to be a good day'. With France, the Netherlands and Spain being so strong, they had a vested interest in keeping it together for the final climb, which resulted in me being able to sit back and chill; especially with Rob [Britton] up in the break."
"On those type of climbs [extremely steep], the draft is irrelevant, so it's better to just dictate the pace. You might as well put the hurt on others instead of them putting the hurt on you. I'm not the greatest descender solo, but I'm capable of following guys; my confidence took a shake after crashing in Utah, but it's come around."
"I was confident in my sprint, but unfortunately I got cramped up with only 50 metres to go and couldn't keep the momentum up, but, yeah, it was a nailbiter. There was a bit of disappointment; I wanted to win. I think I could have won if I didn't cramp up. Alejandro [Valverde] started the sprint so early that I thought I could come around ... but now I'm pretty happy."
"Certainly, this has been the best season of my career; these late results are a product of me losing my son ... having Hunter pass away this summer really motivated me to train my butt off and do something big for him and my wife."
|Return to Canadian Cyclist homepage | Back to Top|