Overheard on the team bus after Flèche Wallone:
Mike Woods: I’m sorry bro. I let you down.
Alex Howes: You didn’t let me down bro. Would I have loved it if you were the best rider in the world today? Yes. But you did everything you could today. Still mad love for you.
Woods: No, you did everything you could today.
Howes: You gave me wings.
That’s our race in a nut shell. Everyone did everything they could to set Woods up for a stellar result. Last year, in his neo-pro season, Woods missed out on the opportunity to contend for a podium due to poor positioning. The Canadian learned from his mistakes and benefitted from the selfless work of his teammates. He was perfectly poised for a solid run up the Mur de Huy. And then…
“I didn’t have the legs in the last 200 metres,” said Woods. “The team did an amazing job. It was exactly what I wanted. I wanted to hit the base of the Mur in the first position, and I was. I was hoping to be able to go a good pace and follow any moves at the finish. The biggest disappointment for me is that I didn’t have the legs after the guys did such a great job.”
He managed 11th place. It’s the best result a North American has posted in seven years but far from the podium spot he targeted.
“I came down with some bad allergies over the course of the last week,” said Woods. “I’ve been coughing a lot and not sleeping much. That probably impacted the very top end speed. Had I not had three or four days of bad sleep, I would have had that extra percentage that would have been good enough for a top five, top three.
“I feel like I’m at the tail-end of it,” he added. “I was coughing a lot yesterday, coughing up a lot of stuff. Last night was one of my first decent sleeps. Now I have three days to recover for Liège, and Liége is definitely a big target.”
The disappointment Woods fills is tempered by encouragement. He knows his execution was good. He draws confidence from the strength of his team.
“The goal coming into the race for Rigo [Uran] and me to be in good position in the final and not care about anything else,” said Woods. “When the two of us are on a good day, we have as good of a shot as anyone, except maybe Valverde, at winning that race. The whole day was protect us and yeah, right from the gun, we had great work from Scully and Skujins. Later on the in the race, Canty was covering moves. Everyone was doing a great job. Alex and Simon [Clarke] really finished it off in an amazing way. I couldn’t ask for a better lead-out.
“We’ve been riding together a lot, especially Alex and I, for the last several races,” Woods continued. “We’re starting to really mesh. It feels like when I played hockey as a kid and you start gluing with another guy. You start to know exactly where he is, where is going to be. You can always pass to where you know he will be. That’s what happened on the lead-out. I knew exactly where he would be to jump on his wheel. It was a huge success from an execution perspective. I just couldn’t finish it off.”