Michael Woods finished off an impeccable team performance by his Israel – Premier Tech teammates by winning the queen stage of La Route d’Occitanie. Woods is also the new overall leader of the race.
“I’m really pleased with the result today”, Woods said after the line. “The teamwork was exceptional. Especially Stevie Williams was just amazing. I think he went extra deep for his friend Gino Mäder and it was really inspirational. The whole team rode incredibly well. I’m really proud to finish it off for the guys and to take the leader’s jersey.”
With a challenging mountain top finish set to dictate the final outcome of the French stage race, today’s stage was always going to be a crucial one for the GC riders.
Wearing number 1 on his back, as the reigning champion of the race, Woods was eager to repeat last year’s achievement. IPT took control of the race early in the stage, setting the pace in the peloton, and at the bottom of the final climb, the remaining riders of the morning breakaway got caught by the pack led by Chris Froome.
Stevie Williams then took over on the early slopes and thinned out the group significantly before Domenico Pozzovivo upped the pace even further, leaving just a handful of riders in the group of the GC riders with 10 kilometers to go.
Woods put in several attacks in the following kilometers and ultimately, only Cristian Rodriguez (Team Arkea Samsic) was able to follow the 36-year-old Canadian. The duo stayed together until the final few hundred meters when Woods put in a final acceleration, leaving Rodriguez behind, while storming to victory on the top of Nistos Cap Nestes.
“This has already been a great race for me. It’s a nice step in the right direction and I’m really excited for the Tour now.”
In the general classification, Woods leads by nine seconds to Rodriguez with Pozzovivo in fifth place overall ahead of Sunday’s final stage of the race.