Michael Woods powered up the tough Superga climb in the finale of Milano-Torino on Wednesday to win the 100th edition of the Italian autumn classic signalling he is ready for Il Lombardia, the final Monument of the season, on Saturday. The Canadian was clearly the strongest climber on the tough 4.9 km climb that averages 9 per cent and kicks up to 14 per cent. Woods found redemption by taking the win at the race he was second at in 2016, his first season as a WorldTour pro. and he beat former world champion Alejandro Valverde who bested the Canadian at worlds in 2018.
“Anytime you can beat Alejandro Valverde, it’s a special time,” said Woods. “I had the good fortune of having really strong teammates today. They rode really well for me.”
Woods teammates set up the finale perfectly. Alex Howes did a lot of work to keep Woods well-positioned and keep the pace high in the peloton heading into the final ascent of the Superga. Then, Tanel Kangert took over with some big turns at the front of the peloton as they hit the slower slopes of the climb. Woods credited the two in particular for laying it all on the line for him at the very end of the race. Then it was up to Woods spectacular climbing legs to take over.
“When guys do that for you, you have no choice but to step up. And I did today,” he explained.
The Ottawa-native relentlessly attacked on the final climb kicking off the action with a powerful move with 4 km still to race but a group of seven came back together after breathless action. After responding to an attack by Frenchman David Gaudu, Woods accelerated again with only Valverde able to follow. With 350 m to go, the Canadian put in one last attack to find separation on the fast-finishing Spanish veteran taking his first career one-day race win. He showed composure timing his move perfectly and confidence in his form riding on the offensive.
“[Maybe I attacked] a bit too much, but I really wanted to shake up the pace,” Woods said about his aggressive strategy. “I really wanted to be on the offensive, put guys on the back foot. That was my goal for attacking so much. I think it really worked out.”
Woods indicated he intended to race aggressively at the start of the day to test his legs before the big rendez-vous at Il Lombardia on Saturday. The final Monument of the season is the last big prize at stake in 2019. A win ahead of Saturday bodes well for Canada’s climbing aces chances at the race of the falling leaves though he didn’t have to face the man on form at the moment in Primoz Roglic today who added his first two career one day races wins in Italy over the past week.
“I mean, no pressure,” Woods responded when asked how big the win today was for Saturday. “But that is the big goal to chase victory or a podium position at Lombardia. This stands as a big win when you look at the field but a Lombardia win would be icing on the cake.”