HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Ottawa’s Michael Woods will have to wait another year to take a serious shot at La Vuelta ciclista a Espana, his favourite Grand Tour pro cycling race.
Holding high hopes for a top-10 General Classification overall finish and his third stage victory, Woods never made it to Spain to resume racing this week, after Monday’s rest day.
Woods was involved in yet another crash on Sunday in the third and final stage during the opening races in The Netherlands and was forced to abandon his fourth attempt at La Vuelta without covering a single kilometre on Spanish soil.
At the 52-kilometre mark of the relatively flat 192-kilometre stage, Woods reportedly tangled with teammate/sprinter Itamar Einhorn and crashed to the pavement. He was immediately examined by a race doctor for what appeared to be a head injury.
Woods returned to the race, but stopped shortly after and was taken to a hospital by an ambulance for observation.
Before the end of the stage, Israel-Premier Tech released a statement that Woods had abandoned the race and would return home.
“We are pleased to report that scans confirmed @rustywoods did not sustain any acute fractures in the crash,” Israel-Premier Tech posted on Twitter. “Mike did sustain a concussion, and multiple abrasions, which have been treated.”
The only Canadian rider in La Vuelta, Woods “returned home to prioritize recovery,” Israel-Premier Tech added.
Woods entered the third stage in 93rd place overall, after placing 16th with his Israel-Premier Tech squad in the Stage 1 Team Time Trial and was 64 seconds back of the leader. He maintained the same time deficit, after placing 29th in Stage 2 on Saturday.
Four days earlier, Woods was optimistic about placing well in the GC standings as he was coming off an up and down Tour de France. He had a personal-best-matching, third-place result in Stage 16 of the Tour, which was won by teammate and Canadian Hugo Houle. But he also had a tough crash in Stage 9 and had to leave the Tour before the final stage because he tested positive for COVID.
“I think the races where I’ve been healthy I’ve been really strong,” Woods said during a pre-La Vuelta virtual press conference last Wednesday. “I’ve just had some bad luck with health this year, getting COVID twice and getting a bad bout of bronchitis, (which) impacted some of my goals for this season, the Ardennes in particular and at the Tour with the crash.”
In his first three La Vuelta events, Woods found plenty of success. In his debut in 2017, he had five top-10 and nine top-15 results, including a third-place result in Stage 9. His consistency brought him a seventh-place GC showing, which is his best Grand Tour overall result in six finishes.
At the 2018 and 2020 La Vuelta races, Woods scored one stage victory in each tour event, but could only manage matching 34th-place GC results. Woods also recorded two second-place finishes in 2020.
HIGH JUMPER BARBARA BITCHOKA TIES FOR SIXTH AT NACAC OPEN
Ottawa’s Barbara Bitchoka had a respectable showing for Canada at the NACAC (North American, Central American and Caribbean) open track and field championships in Freeport, Bahamas.
The unattached Ontario high jumper tied for sixth place in the women’s event at 1.75 metres. She cleared 1.60, 1.65, 1.70 and 1.75 metres on her first attempts, but couldn’t manage 1.78 metres in her three tries.
American Vashti Cunningham, the 2016 world indoor champion and 2019 world outdoor bronze medallist at a height of 2.00 metres, won the women’s high jump at 1.92 metres.
SOONERS, JUNIOR RIDERS POST FOOTBALL VICTORIES
Junior football is alive and well after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
The Ottawa Sooners improved their record to 1-1 in the Ontario Football Conference with a 37-7 win over the GTA Grizzlies at Carleton University. The Sooners dropped their opening game at home the previous weekend, falling 42-14 to London Beefeaters.
Nine-time champion Ottawa Junior Riders captured their opening game in the Quebec Major Junior Football League with a 32-6 victory over Quebec City Batallion.
MOUNTAIN BIKER XANDER WOODFORD OFF TO WORLDS
This is a busy month for mountain bike racer Xander Woodford of Ottawa and Ride with Rendall.
After representing Ontario at the Canada Summer Games in the Niagara Region — where he won a silver medal in relay, placed ninth in the sprint and 14th in the cross-country race — he’s off to wear Team Canada colours at the world mountain bike championships.
Woodford is part of Canada’s 51-athlete team that will compete against the world’s best Tuesday through Sunday at Les Gets, France. He’s scheduled to battle in the boys’ junior cross-country race.
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.
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