Mike Woods finishes fifth in stage 2 of Tour of the Basque Country
Total team effort behind our Canadian
Mike: I hit it hard too early
Mike Woods was our man today. When push came to shove, and the 20-odd GC contenders were fighting to gain seconds on each other during that last, uphill, kilometer, he was there.
Mike would end up finishing 5th, showing again that few riders can match him on this kind of hard finale. And beyond that, his forceful performance strengthened his teammates’ confidence and trust in him, which fuels the all-out effort needed to support a leader.
This full support was evident throughout the 154 km stage, especially when the peloton hit the last significant climb of the day. That’s where it was so crucial to have the best rider positioned in the front. Krists Neilands, not feeling entirely well, gave everything he had to help Mike in that critical moment on the foot of the climb; and then it was Ben Hermans’ turn to stay with Mike as long as he could. Hermans may be a proven leader in this team, a proud rider who has won stage races for us, but here he is the ultimate teammate: “I came here to help Mike one hundred percent with zero personal ambitions,” he said.
When that job was done, it was all left to the Canadian. Plenty of attacks followed, including by the leading contenders here, Pogacar and Roglic (the overall leader of the race). Mike was able to follow with the selected group that survived the pace. “I had good legs,” he said later, “and I was able to follow some moves, but nothing really stuck.”
While the contenders were waiting for the final showdown on the 1 km uphill finish, it was the solo escape by local Basque rider Alex Aranburu (Astana-Premier Tech) that caught everybody off guard. Aranburu would take the stage, but behind him, the leader’s group was hitting it, especially Mike. “I hit it hard,” he recalled, “but it was probably a bit too early as the other guys came around me in the last 50 meters.”
But it was a clear indication that he is on his game. Looking ahead to tomorrow’s third stage, which ends with a 2.7 km steep climb (the first kilometer is 10%), we see a real opportunity