Mike Woods on a mission in La Flèche Wallonne
“It’s like a 1,500 m running race – my strongest as a runner.”
“A podium, even a win – a possibility.”
The finale of all finales in La Flèche Wallonne: the mighty Mur de Huy.
Only a few great races can present this kind of majestic finish: 1,300 meters of steep gradients with a brutal 20% stretch.
Only a few riders can tackle this climb to the finish after 192 km with enough gas left in their tanks to produce the power needed to cross the line as the winner.
The bottom line? It’s almost a given that tomorrow, when the race gets to the Mur for the third and final time, you will see a very select group of riders battling between themselves, waiting for the right moment to push the pedals with all they’ve got left.
And ISN’s hopes are clear: to see Mike Woods among those few that will go for it.
Twenty years ago, a Belgian rider named Rik Verbrugghe was able to knock out all the favorites around him and have his name forever etched in stone. Tomorrow, Rik will be our sports director in the ISN team car, hoping to see the team help the Canadian get to the Mur’s foot in the best position possible and as fresh as possible. Then, it is up to Woods. “You need to have a unique combination of skills to win on the Mur,” explained Verbrugghe. “You’ve got to be a great climber but also have the explosiveness. A rider like Tom Pidcock (INEOS) has that. Julian Alaphilippe has that. And yeah, Mike Woods has that. That’s why Mike can be there and fight for the podium.”
Last year Mike was able to prove that, finishing third when riding for Education First.
Now, he feels that he has the teammates to back him up for another run for it. “A podium if, not a win, is a possibility,” he said but immediately tempered his optimism:
“There’s always a powerful field out there, and that cannot be underestimated. So I’m going to have to play my cards right. I’m going to have to have a perfect day to get a good result.”
But the Mur truly excites him, knowing for a fact how well it suits his lethal combination of strengths, the same ones needed there. “It’s like a 1,500 m running race, which is what I was strongest at as a runner, and that’s one of the reasons why I like it so much,” he explained.
Of course, it’s not a one-person task.
Mike: “It is quite tricky to get there to the final; it’s not just a sprint up a climb, but there is a 190 k before it that have to be ridden really efficiently and smart, and if you don’t ride that first 190 k well and you don’t have the team, then it’s almost impossible to get the victory.”
DS Verbrugghe is confident that we have that team. “It’s a strong lineup. Not only for protecting Mike, but we also got a few other cards to play like Krists Neilands and James Piccoli that can go with some attacks before the race hits the Mur for the last time.”
Mike feels it can have a happy ending. “I’m just really excited to be racing here and representing ISN at this race, and I think it’s going to be a good day tomorrow.”
Mike Woods – Canada
Guy Sagiv – Israel
James Piccoli – Canada
Deryl Impey : South Africa
Reto Hollenstein : Switzerland
Guillaume Boivin – Canada
Krists Neilands – Latvia