Michael Woods has found a stable home in the turbulent world of professional bike racing. At 32-years-old, the world championship bronze medallist keeps improving as he becomes more experienced racing in the WorldTour. Currently in his fourth season with the EF Education First Pro Cycling program, Woods has signed a multi-year extension with the team.
“The direction of the team, the idea of exploring the world — it all really meshes with what I believe in,” said Woods. “I feel very fortunate to be on a team that values what I naturally value – education, exploration, community.
Woods meteoric rise in cycling began when he started riding his father’s bike while working at a shoe store after his promising running career was derailed by injury. He earned a Pro Continental contract just two years after beginning racing. In 2016, Woods signed with Jonathan Vaughters WorldTour team and represented Canada at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Since his professional debut, Woods has posted an incredible string of results. He was seventh in the general classification at the 2017 Vuelta a España, finished second at Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2018, won an incredibly emotional first WorldTour race at the Vuelta in 2018 and earned a bronze medal at world last year in Innsbruck. EF Education First’s confidence in the Ottawa-native set him up for the breakthrough performances in 2018.
“I came to the team not knowing who I was as a cyclist and what I was capable of,” Woods said. “I didn’t fit the typical neo-pro role. I’m lucky to have had the directors and team managers believe in me.”
In the offseason, Woods has been working on improving his descending skills which he and his coaches have identified as one of his weaknesses. Since his debut in professional bike racing, his positioning in the peloton has greatly improved as he’s worked at improving in areas beyond his world-class fitness.
“I had no experience in the WorldTour when I joined the team, but JV said I could win an Ardennes Classic,” explained Woods. “Knowing what I know now, that was a bold prediction for him to make about me at the time. I had not shown anything that truly indicated I could win a Classic – but he was right. I haven’t won one yet, but with the results I got last year, these are races we know I can win.”
EF Education First go into the Ardennes Classics in 2019 with Woods as a solid contender up there in the conversation of established favourites like Alejandro Valverde, Julian Alaphilippe and Michal Kwiatkowski.
“I really want to try to win some big races now,” said Woods. “I’m starting to figure out how to win in the WorldTour. That doesn’t mean I’m going to win every race, have success in every race. I know I will have some big failures […] but I’m much more consistent now. I have a better understanding of my fitness and can better predict how I will perform.”
Woods has meshed really well with the EF Education First teammates and sites the environment Vaughters has created as a big reason for his decision to re-sign for 2020 and beyond. “I could go on for ages about how great this team is, how great the guys are. I’m really happy here, and I’m super stoked to stay,” Woods said.
With more experience under his belt, a big winter of training and a growing string of results to back-up his promise, Woods will tackle the Amstel Gold Race, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and then head for a likely participation in the Giro d’Italia. He’s also expressed his interest in starting the Tour de France but EF Education First have only confirmed that Rigoberto Uran will be targetting the GC at the French Grand Tour.
“I’m really pleased with the progression of the team since I joined it,” said Woods. “I had a lot of fun the first year, but it’s nothing compared to the kind of fun I’m having now. As an organization, the team is far more organized, far more focused, far more clear in its goals. I’m really proud to be a part of this team, especially now with the partnership with EF.”
Woods has already notched one win in 2019 at the Herald Sun Tour in January.