HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
WEEKEND WRAP: Mike Woods stood at the threshold of a great moment in his cycling career on Sunday. He had the key in his hand, but he was unsure he could unlock the door to achieve such distinction.
In his 10th year as a pro cyclist and now a constant threat on the World Tour level, the Israel Start-Up Nation rider used a Stage 4 win Saturday to soar into first place overall and seized the coveted yellow jersey for the final stage Sunday during the Tour de Romandie in Switzerland.
One more solid performance on the road and he could win his first-ever General Classification title (overall champion) in his 47th stage tour. But the key failed. Instead of racing on a familiar track with heart-pounding hills, he faced the dreaded and punishing time trial.
Woods and the individual time trial are archrivals. Despite carrying an 11-second advantage into the 16.9-kilometre time trial over 2018 Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas of Ineos Grenadiers, it wasn’t enough. And he knew it wouldn’t be enough.
Decked out in yellow and the last man to roll down the start ramp, Woods finished in 28th place (23 minutes, five seconds) and was 71 seconds behind time-trial winner Remi Cavagna of Deceuninck-Quick-Step. Woods dropped to fifth overall. History must wait.
Woods has twice come close to a General Classification victory, only to experience a second-place result: the 2021 Tour of the Alpes Maritimes and the Var as well as the 2015 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.
“It was really special wearing the yellow jersey, even with the yellow shoe covers on, which was nice,” Woods told Cycling News, after finishing 44 seconds behind GC champ Thomas, whose rainy crash Saturday allowed Woods to win stage 4.
“I tried to cherish and enjoy the moment,” added the Hillcrest High School grad. “I knew that I probably wouldn’t be holding on to it at the end of the day, but it was great to be in yellow.”
During Woods’ Stage 4 victory, he was in a tricky, two-man sprint with 100 metres left along with Thomas, whose hands were numbed by the cold and rain, when Thomas wiped out, allowing Woods the victory.
“I’m really proud how I raced today,” Woods said after his Stage 4 win. “I didn’t want to take the jersey the way I did. I didn’t want Geraint to go down, but it’s cool to be wearing the leader’s jersey (for the final stage).”
Individual time trials are always gut-wrenching sprints and Woods, a former middle- and long-distance track runner, hasn’t mastered that cycling chore at this time.
“I didn’t have the legs on the flat sections and emptied the tank a bit too early on,” Woods said, explaining his Romandie time trial. “I need to do more homework on the time-trial bike.”
The Tour de Romandie capped an interesting 25 days of racing in April and early May for Woods, who will have the Criterium du Dauphine (May 30-June 6) before the Tour de France (June 26-July 18) and the Olympics (July 24).
After missing the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race in March because of illness, Woods crashed in Stage 3 of the Itzulia Basque Country stage race and withdrew with hand and shoulder injuries. He wanted to be ready for the Ardennes Classics.
Woods finished 32nd in a large pack of cyclists, who were three seconds behind the top three, at the Amstel Gold Race. At La Fleche Wallonne, he misjudged his tactics and positioning, was fourth and upset that he missed the podium.
Well positioned for second-half climbs in the one-day, marathon Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Woods attacked with 13 kilometres left and three riders chased him. But he was disappointed as the final man in the five-rider sprint in 6:39:26.
Gee-Gees alum Domingue celebrating title
Former University of Ottawa Gee-Gee Kevin Domingue is wearing the champion’s smile, after his Nottingham Panthers upset pennant-winning Sheffield Steelers 5-3 and 5-2 to win the best-of-three Elite Ice Hockey League final.
Domingue scored the insurance, fourth goal for the Panthers in the second game and counted an assist in the opening match. He finished the championship series a +3 with eight shots on goal from his 14 shots.
Amy Millar in contention for Olympics
Five show-jumping riders have been short-listed for Canada’s one berth in the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo: Eric Lamaze (ranked 22nd), Mario Deslauriers (43rd), Tiffany Foster (88th), Erynn Ballard (109th) and Amy Millar of Perth (212nd).
Runners, walkers: take your mark
The Ottawa Race Weekend is open for business as runners and walkers can register and participate in the two- to 50-kilometre challenges at their leisure and close to home until May 31. More than 5,000 runners and walkers have already registered.
Runners and walkers also can take part in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge, which raises money for 50 local charities. More than $400,000 was raised in 2020, and this year’s total has already surpassed $250,000.
Penn State award for Sutherland
Penn State University Nittany Lions have finished their spring football practices and Ottawa’s Jonathan Sutherland won an award. He shared the Frank Patrick Memorial Total Commitment Award with Sean Clifford and Juice Scruggs.
Sutherland is expected to wear jersey number 0 for the second-consecutive season, identifying him as a key player on the Lions’ special teams. He also is an overall defensive leader.
Golfer Sale finishes top-10
Two-time Alexander of Tunis champion Julien Sale of the Rivermead Golf Club tied for ninth overall (78-77-72-227) and his Arkansas State University Red Wolves placed fifth as a team in the Sun Belt Conference men’s golf championship.
Ottawa hockey players shine at U18 men’s worlds
Carp’s Mason McTavish is his team’s co-leading scorer with 10 points in 5 games (5 goals, 5 assists) as Canada has breezed through to the semi-finals at the April 26-May 6 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in Texas.
Defender Brandt Clarke of Ottawa has scored at a point-a-game pace (2 goals, 3 assists) in Canada’s victories over Sweden (12-1), Latvia (4-2), Switzerland (7-0), Belarus (5-2) and Czech Republic (10-3 in the quarter-finals).
Canada will play in the semi-final on Wednesday.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.