Canadian cyclist Michael Woods showed his climbing prowess Friday in winning Stage 2 of the four-stage Gran Camino race to take over first place overall.
The 35-year-old from Ottawa, riding for the Israel-Premier Tech team, finished the 177.6-kilometre stage in four hours, 35 minutes and 52 seconds to take a 17-second lead over Alejandro Valverde in the overall standings. The Spaniard finished second on the stage, 16 seconds behind.
“I’m very happy and relieved. It’s really important to get a win early in the season, both for myself and the team,” Woods said. “I’ve had a lot of close finishes over the last few months but not many wins. So it’s nice to finally get another one under my belt. I went to the Ruta del Sol last week hoping to get a result because I was in good shape.
“Then I got sick and spent the last week worrying about my form, hoping to have the legs I had before I got sick. I think I did.”
Woods almost missed the five-stage Ruta del Sol race due to a stomach bug. He ended up dropping out after the first stage.
Woods made his move Friday on the final kilometre of the Mirador de Ezaro, which features steep gradients of up to 28 per cent.
“Mike was feeling good and he rode really intelligently in the moment with an attack at the perfect time,” said Israel-Premier Tech sports director Oscar Guerrero. “He got the win and he also tried to take as much time as possible for the general classification, but our big objective was the stage win.”
Denmark’s Magnus Cort, who won the first stage, dropped to 65th overall, 3:25 back of Woods. Ottawa’s Derek Gee, who also rides for Israel-Premier Tech, stands 57th overall.
Saturday’s 148.4-kilometre stage from Maceda to Luintra will be followed by the closing 15.8-kilometre time trial Sunday.