Cycling Elite Amateur Sport

Ottawa at the Olympics Day 2: Mike Woods’ nail-biter finish

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By Kieran Heffernan, Charlie Pinkerton, Dan Plouffe & Emma Kelly

In a battle with seven other cyclists for silver and bronze medals, Ottawa road cyclist Mike Woods came a couple wheel lengths short of the podium, finishing in 5th place. Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz was the solo winner, 1 minute and 7 seconds ahead of the next pack of survivors in the field of 130 riders.

The 234 kilometre, over six-hour-long race was hot, humid, and full of climbs, but that worked out fine for Woods, who told the CBC he thought he was the strongest climber there.

Woods had a crash early in the race, but it didn’t seem to bother him much. Later on, with about 30 km left, he even took the lead for a short time, leading the race’s announcer to comment: “There’s Michael Woods, from Canada, a country known more for the Winter Olympics.”

Screenshot of CBC’s broadcast as Ottawa’s Mike Woods led the men’s road race.

Here were the race’s final seconds, courtesy of CBC:

The Canadian Press also wrote this more in-depth race analysis.

At a media availability following the race, Woods said that he finished about as well as he could’ve hoped.

“I said to the guys before, if I have a good day I’ll come top 5, if I have a really good day, and good luck, I’ll get a medal, and if I have really, really good luck I’ll get gold,” Woods said. “And I didn’t have the luck that I wanted today but I did have the legs.”

To him, Woods said, there was no way he could win the final sprint against eventual silver medallist Wout van Aert, who had just won the Champs-Élysées at the Tour de France in a sprint.

Falling just short of a podium finish may be enough motivation to push Woods to a third Olympics, who said that had he medalled, he likely wouldn’t try for it.

“I’m still hungry,” Woods said. “The Olympics are one of the races that really motivated me as a cyclist and if Paris is a challenging course, I think for sure I’ll keep on going until Paris.”

At his first Olympics in Rio, he was “certainly more just happy to be there,” he said. “My only goal when I started cycling was to go to the Olympics and I’d achieved it.” After those Games, he realized he needed to reset his goals, and came into Tokyo “a lot more motivated because I knew what I was capable of.”

For now, Woods just has one more race to try and win: getting back home to Andorra in time for the birth of his second child, a boy named Will.

The other Ottawa athletes to compete on Day 2 were:

Vanessa Gilles sat out again for the women’s soccer team’s second game. Their much needed 2-1 win against Chile all but guarantees a spot in the quarter finals.

Gaby Dabrowski and her partner Sharon Fichman in women’s doubles tennis lost their first match to Laura Pigossi and Luisa Stefani of Brazil. Unfortunately, the 7-6 (3), 6-4 loss means the end of the tournament for the pair. Dabrowski will still compete in mixed doubles with Felix Auger-Aliassime.


DAY 3 PREVIEW: Kelleigh Ryan’s long-awaited Olympic debut

Despite being on the national team since 2009, fencer Kelleigh Ryan is finally competing in her first Olympics. Tonight she’ll compete in individual foil, in an all-day competition (or all-night, if you’re in Ottawa). Medallists will be decided by the early morning hours of July 25.

Ryan told the Sports Pages about her scramble to find a place to train at the beginning of the pandemic. When she heard that the International Fencing Federation was shutting down all events because of the virus responsible for causing COVID, she booked a flight to her home in New Jersey.

While living there with her husband, fencing coach Alex Martin, Ryan had intended to continue training nearby in New York City. But it was only a matter of time before the pandemic caused New York City to shut down.

She and Martin then drove to Ottawa, where after the 14-day quarantine they had to serve after coming back to Canada, Ryan attempted to keep training for a short while before heading to Calgary, where facilities, again, would shut down shortly after her move.

At the time, Calgary didn’t give national team athletes exceptions, meaning Ryan was resigned to training in her house. Usually used to high performance training centres and regular practice on a strip, Ryan was stuck relying on smaller weights and sprints to keep in shape.

Unfortunately, Martin isn’t attending the games, since although he helps coach Ryan, he isn’t an eligible national team coach.

Having experienced the Olympics before as a team supporter, Ryan’s still excited for her chance to compete, even despite the COVID measures that will make Tokyo’s Games more contained than they normally are.

“I remember the electricity I felt in the room when watching Eleanor (Harvey) compete in Rio 2016 and I am excited to experience this now as a player,” Ryan said.

Read more of our coverage on Kelleigh Ryan on our website here and here.

Another Ottawa athlete also in action on Day 3 is:

Cam Smedley (canoe slalom) will race in the early hours of tomorrow morning. He must finish in the top 15 out of 18 racers in order to move on to the semifinals.

All Ottawa Olympians’ schedules can be found here.

This article was first sent to subscribers of the Ottawa at the Olympics Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it, for free, here.

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