RACE: Tour de France stage nine, Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat › Puy de Dôme
DATE: Sunday 9 July

The normal Tour de France finish gantry was not in place. The Panoramique des Dômes train line replaced the usual throng of passionate fans along the roadside. The race’s slick podium was scaled down to the bare basics. Nonetheless, the prize on offer near the summit of the Puy de Dôme when the world’s biggest cycle race returned to the UNESCO World Heritage Site remained unchanged and lost none of its prestige.

With just 800 metres of the 182.4-kilometre ninth stage remaining, Michael Woods began to realise that the possibility of becoming the rider who would claim the right to experience the most unusual of Tour finishes to the fullest could be him. Catching lone leader Matteo Jorgensen before the finish line, he concluded, was possible. “I knew I had a shot because I saw him really starting to fade,” said the Canadian.

Michael Woods riding solo to win his Tour de France 2023 stage at Puy de Dôme

Woods’ palmarès isn’t lacking in impressive victories. Vuelta a España victories atop Balcón de Bizkaia (2018) and at Villanueva de Valdegovia (2020) stand out, accompanied by other WorldTour triumphs at Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour de Romandie. After a frantic day of racing in the Haute-Vienne and Auvergne, this list of achievements was about to gain a memorable addition.

He couldn’t have paced his ascent of the Puy de Dôme any better. Having started the 12.6-kilometre climb nearly two minutes behind Jorgensen, the catch was made 500 metres out from the line. Before long, the IPT rider raced into the distance and only eased off his cadence in sight of the makeshift finish line.

Aged 36, Woods had finally triumphed at the Tour de France. “Winning a stage in the Tour is something I’ve always wanted to do, and talked about doing, but it is never something I’ve achieved,” he said. “I finally did it today.”