While Michael Woods has two notable second places to his name in 2018 at the Giro d’Italia and Monument Liège–Bastogne–Liège, his victory on Stage 17 of the Vuelta a España was his first career WorldTour victory and first win since joining EF Education First-Drapac three seasons ago. Woods powered clear of a strong breakaway on the brutally steep Balcón de Bizkaia.
Luckily for us, he’s now posted that ride on Strava showing us what it took to win on one of the hardest ascents of the race which is famous for brutally steep climbs. Unfortunately, Woods was so busy post-stage that he forgot to turn off his Garmin Edge 520 with the ride only ending in Pamplona where the team is presumably spending the night. He also didn’t include much data with only his speed there to analyze his effort.
In the first hour of the race, Woods averaged 44 km/h to get into the breakaway of 26 riders. He was up against some stiff competition in the move with Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) amoung the biggest names. The move proceed to establish a comfortable lead averaging 39 km/h until the base of the final climb where the stage win would be decided.
The final ascent, the Balcón de Bizkaia is a leg-numbing 7 km at nine per cent climb. The real pain came in the final 4-km where the gradient was an average of 11 per cent with the steepest pitches at nearly 24 per cent.
Woods set the second fastest ascent of the climb on Strava at 20:48 and an average speed of 19.7 km/h. Only Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), who crossed the line 1:04 back on Enric Mas and Alejandro Valverde who lead the GC group across the line, has a faster Strava time than Woods. Woods stopped the clock on the day at 4:09:48 after 157-km of racing.
Woods then didn’t stop his Garmin which ran until the team vehicle with his bike arrived in Pamplona. We just wonder who has the gut to flag his extremely emotional stage winning ride