In a pre-race interview before the 100th edition of Milano-Torino, Michael Woods looked as calm as a cucumber.
“I’m feeling good,” he said with a smile. Now, we know why.
Noting that Milano-Torino is a favorite race of his after finishing second in 2016. “It’s always a great race to test your form going into this weekend’s final monument of the season,’ he said. A few hours later, arms aloft atop of Superga, the race’s final climb, he was crossing the finish first with a trailing Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott).
“I always like it when you’re in those moments, when you know that some of the best riders in the world are around you,” Woods said post race. “There’s only five or ten guys there, the peloton is so hectic prior to those finales and then all of a sudden there’s just this quiet and you know you’re on TV, and you know that a lot of people are watching. It’s always a special feeling, especially when you’re on a good day.”
A cold start to the day saw the peloton wrapped up to keep warm, pedaling along with a break of five riders up the road. It wasn’t until the first ascent of Superga that the lone rider left from the break, Rémi Cavagna, was eventually caught by the peloton. With 20km left to go, the pace stepped up with teams taking to the front to control the race. Alex Howes and Tanel Kangert played a huge part in setting the pace positioning Woods to take the win.
It was a total team effort; each rider played a role in winning the race. “Alex HowesAlex surprised me,” race sport director, Fabrizio Guidi said. “Because I was thinking more on using Tanel and then maybe Nate toward the finale, but Nate had also been working at the start. So Alex took the responsibility, he came to the car and gave me some clothes and then said, ‘I’ll see you on live TV in a moment’ and I said ‘Ok, off you go’ and the next moment there he was.”
“We controlled right from the beginning,” Woods explains. “Lachlan MortonLachlan Morton and Jonathan Klever CaicedoJonathan Caicedo rode from after the break was established and basically helped control things. After that, Alex Howes and Tanel Kangert did an amazing job on the second climb and placed me well. We raced like we wanted to win and we did it. That doesn’t happen too often.”
On the final ascent of the Superga with 4km to go Woods attacked with only Jack Haig (Mitcheton-Scott) and Gorka Izaguirre (Astana) able to respond. David Gaudu (Groupama FDJ) managed to claw his way across and later a select group of riders also bridged across – Egan Bernal (Ineos), Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
As attacks came from Gaudu, Woods looked comfortable and able to respond, with 300m to go he was the man out front, accelerating and gapping a chasing Valverde. His winning acceleration allowed him enough time to lift his arms out wide and give the cameras a winning victory salute.
“Mike is a born winner,” CEO, Jonathan Vaughters says. “It’s just part of him, but it hasn’t been easy for him to find a way to win in cycling. He’s worked so hard to overcome his relatively late start in cycling and learn the art of maneuvering in the peloton. So today is a reward for all his pain and effort. I’m so happy for him,” Vaughters says, a huge amount of pride in the team showing through.
After his second place in Giro dell’Emilia last Saturday, he and the team are showing impressive end of season strength, but it’s not over yet, Saturday, it’s all about the race of the falling leaves: the Giro di Lombardia.
“When you see your team win races in your own country you feel light, you walk easier, you smile more,” Guidi explains. “We won and we did great but it is not finished yet, and we need to try and finish it, to do our best. Now it’s all about focusing on the next one.”
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