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Was Michael Woods’ last season with EF Pro Cycling his best one?

Overcoming serious injury underscores Rusty's 2020 accomplishments

Photo by: Sirotti

On Sunday, Michael Woods completed his last race with EF Pro Cycling after five seasons by coming 34th in the Vuelta a España for the second time. It was great end to his time with the American team before heading over to Israel Start-up Nation, where he’ll race with Chris Froome. Not only did Rusty win his second career Vuelta stage and place runner-up on two other stages, but he also was crucial to Hugh Carthy‘s first Grand Tour podium.

Some might see 2018 as the high-water mark of the Canadian’s career: he was runner-up in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, wore bronze in the World Championships and took an emotional first Vuelta stage triumph. But 2020 had the factor of the broken leg, a huge obstacle to overcome.

Woods Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Michael Woods had an absolutely amazing 2018 Liege-Bastogne-Liege, following a late attack by Romain Bardet then sprinting for second. Photo: Sirotti

Having broken his femur in a crash March 13 in the fifth stage of Paris-Nice, his first race of the season, Woods recovered in the COVID-19 recess, emerging four-and-a-half months later to place 36th in the WorldTour restart, Strade Bianche. By July 18, he was strong enough to win a stage of the virtual Tour de France.

In his first post-recess stage race, Tirreno-Adriatico, Woods’s Stage 3 victory on September 9–the first for a Canadian–put him in the blue leader’s jersey for two days. He went on to place 8th. At the end of the month, he was on La Fleche Wallonne’s podium.

Woods wins the third stage of Tirreno-Adriatico to pull on blue leader’s jersey. Photo: Sirotti

Woods had recovered from early season injury before. In his first season with Cannondale in 2016, after coming 12th in La Fleche Wallonne, Woods crashed in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, breaking his hand in three places and injuring his back. He returned to racing two months later at the Canadian nationals and went on to come second to Angel Lopez in Milano-Torino, a race he would claim three seasons later.

With Cannondale/EF Pro Cycling Woods raced and completed six Grand Tours, rolling two in 2017 and 2018.

2017 Giro d’Italia 38th
2017 Vuelta a España 7th
2018 Giro d’Italia 19th
2018 Vuelta a España 34th
2019 Tour de France 32nd
2020 Vuelta a España 34th

A select Cannondale/EF Pro Cycling palmares:
2016: 2nd Milano-Torino
2017: 7th Vuelta
2018: 2nd Liege-Bastogne-Liege, 3rd World Championships, 1st Stage 17 Vuelta, 2nd Stage 4 Giro d’Italia
2019: 1st Herald Sun Tour Stage 2, 1st Milano-Torino, 2nd Giro dell’Emilia
2020: stage win/race lead Tirreno-Adriatico; 3rd La Fleche Wallonne; 1st Stage 7 Vuelta, 2nd Stages 6 and 14