Last year, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a.k.a. la Doyenne, was one mean old lady to Ottawa’s Michael Woods.
“LBL is where my season really fell apart last year,” the Cannondale-Drapac rider said. “I was going great prior to that race and in the race itself. But then crashing with 25 km to go and breaking my hand in three places really put me on a negative trend that I did not recover from until late into the season.” The injury ruining any chance of Woods riding the 2016 Giro. He wouldn’t do a WorldTour race until the Tour de Pologne in July.
If you look at Woods’s result at Wednesday’s la Flèche Wallonne, you might thing he’s riding just as well as he was last year. In the 2016 edition of the “Walloon Arrow,” Woods finished in 12th place. This year, he was 11th. The Canadian rider, however, has been struggling out on the road. “The race was a pretty bittersweet,” he said. “Flèche is likely my favourite race on the calendar. It’s one I have been targeting since the start of the season. Last year, I really messed up the run in to the Mur de Huy, but had the legs to do well. This year, the team, and I executed exceptionally well from a positioning perspective. I started the final climb in the perfect position. Unfortunately, due to a real bad case of allergies, I was coughing all day. I did not get a quality sleep in the four days leading up to the race. Although I executed on the positioning, due to the allergies, I believe I was just missing that 1–2 percent that I had in the week previous at País Vasco.”
Though he may have have been hacking with hay fever, Woods put out some serious wattage on the Mur. Late Wednesday, he posted his La Flèche Wallonne file to Strava. On the final climb up the Mur, 1.2 km with an elevation gain of 121 m, he averaged 526 W and hit a maximum of 721 W. On the segment’s leaderboard, Woods tied Roman Barguil for third, both with at time of 3:21. Michał Kwiatkowski and David Gaudu both climbed in 3:19. But did Woods notice his high Strava ranking? “Not really,” he said. “Nobody is paying my bills because of how I placed on a KOM on Strava. This being said, I do love using Strava, but bike racing is about a lot more than KOMs.”
For Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Woods is optimistic. “The big positive takeaway from Flèche is that I am positioning on a far superior level to last year and that our team is meshing really well, which bodes well for the races to come.”
He just needs to drop that cough.
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