Michael Woods returned to the Laurentian Classics for the first time for the 10th edition having last competed in the pair of Canadian one-day races in his first season at the WorldTour in 2016. The Ottawa-native went deep into the race and was a main attacker on the final ascent of Camillien-Houde. Woods came into the finish line in 8th place, the best Canadian on the day though Nick Zukowsky also had a brilliant ride winning the KOM classification.
“The sensations were really good today. I tried to animate the race as much as possible just because it’s not the greatest style of course for me cause, it’s not super steep but the legs were really good,” Woods said at the finish. “I tried a couple of digs on Camillien-Houde. I made some errors of execution on the final sprint but still happy with my performance.”
Since Woods first came to these races, he’s won a stage of the Vuelta a Espana, completed his first Tour de France and finished third at worlds in Innsbruck last year. The WorldTour coming to Canada played an immense role in his elevation to the WorldTour.
“It’s an honour to do these races. We are really lucky to have them in Canada. These races gave me the experience to move up to the WorldTour, gave me the opportunity to get exposure in the WorldTour and made the jump to it that much easier,” he said. “Now I have it as a benchmark, this is my first time back since 2016 and just how I felt in the race today, how I felt in Quebec City, it’s really nice to see how far I have come and I feel really lucky to have a guy like Serge Arsenault putting on this race.”
Woods next big rendez-vous is with Team Canada at the world championships in Yorkshire. While a repeat performance isn’t out of the question, Woods tempered expectations.
“Obviously the world championships course isn’t like last year, it’s not as steep but still has 4,000 m of climbing over 290 km. I think it’s certainly going to play out a bit like today’s race,” Woods said. “I think I have a good shot of doing well there. It will be very difficult to podium again but I think it will be a good opportunity with us having six riders to showcase Canadian cycling. Finally, it will be nice prep for my biggest goals of the end of the season which are the Italian classics. I really want to go well at Lombardia. It’s not a Monument I have had great success at.”
With the form building nicely after a season that included a difficult Tour de France debut during which he broke two ribs, Woods was happy to feel good sensations in his legs in Montreal and Quebec City.
“It just gives me a lot of confidence going into the final races of the season. After taking six weeks off you lose some of the flow of the racing but it felt like the flow came back really fast,” he said about his end-of-season form. “I felt the best I ever have on this course.
Though a top-10 finish isn’t anything to scoff at, Woods seemed only satisfied with his ride. “Because of the headwind, it was hard to make a difference on Camillien-Houde. That was really my goal today, to be a protagonist. It was an honour to show off my legs and show what Canadians are capable of. It was a hard sprint because of the last corner. Someone always attacks around the corner so everyone’s legs were blocked and I wasn’t perfectly placed,” he explained about his eight-place finish.
With two strong races on home soil in his legs alongside world’s favourites Peter Sagan, Greg Van Avermaet and Michael Matthews, Woods showed that if the race is hard in Yorkshire, that he and his teammates in the maple leaf will be worth keeping an eye on to animate things in Harrogate.