HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
New team. New goals. New year. If the 2021 pro cycling racing calendar can play out without any major disturbances, Ottawa native Michael Woods of could do some unprecedented damage. Here’s why:
In 2020, Woods had the second-best season of his five years on the World Tour and his last with the EF Pro Cycling team. And it all unfolded after breaking a femur, guarding against coronavirus during rehab, and racing a compact summer-fall sked.
Woods also watched the 2020 Summer Olympics drift into 2021. Despite a small mountain of disappointments, the 34-year-old used his determination and superior climbing skills to produce some magical results, which spanned over 100 days.
After a full recovery from his crash and fractured femur in the fifth stage of his season-opening Paris-Nice stage race (the final race for almost five months because of COVID-19), Woods had seven podium finishes from 32 races.
Competing in his third La Vuelta ciclista a Espana Grand Tour, he took advantage of his openings, winning Stage 7, placing second in Stages 6 and 14, ninth in Stage 12, and eighth in the overall mountains classification.
Woods was third in La Fleche Wallonne, one of three Ardennes Classics, and 12th at the world championships. In the Tirreno-Adriatico test, he won Stage 3, was third in Stage 4 and third in the mountains classification.
It comes as no surprise that Woods was the fans’ favourite this year in the 24th-annual Canadian Cyclist awards, overcoming substantial challenges and sprinting hard to the finish to earn two honours.
For the fourth consecutive year, Woods, a former top distance runner with the Ottawa Lions Track-and-Field Club was chosen Canadian Cyclist male athlete of the year. His Spanish Grand Tour Stage 7 victory earned him best male performance of the year.
“It’s a big honour and I always appreciate it, especially considering that it is something that is voted on by fans,” Woods told Canadian Cyclist. “I take that especially to heart and I really appreciate their support.”
When Woods enters his ninth season as a professional cyclist, he’ll be wearing the colours of Israel Start-Up and racing with noted teammates Chris Froome and Dan Martin as well as former teammate Alex Cataford of Ottawa.
Earlier this year, Woods signed a three-year deal with Israel Start-Up, which has significant Canadian content. The team is owned by Canadian-Israeli businessman Sylvan Adams of Montreal.
Paulo Saldanha is the team’s performance director and has been Woods’s coach for many years. Israel Start-Up Nation’s roster also will include two other Canadian riders: Guillaume Boivin and James Piccoli.
Unlike 2020 when the bulk of the men’s pro racing schedule was crammed between August and November, Woods hopes the 2021 calendar follows its proper path as he sets his eyes squarely on the Summer Olympics.
Woods switched to Israel Start-Up Nation because it would allow him to build his personal race plan around the Olympic men’s road race on July 23. He also plans to race the Tour de France June 26 to July 18.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for over 47 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.