A win doesn’t get much better than that!
With an arm raised in the air and the spectacular Galician coast behind him, Mike Woods opened his 2022 victory account in emphatic fashion with a solo win on the brutally steep Mirador do Ézaro on stage 2 of O Gran Camiño.
“I’m very happy and relieved. It’s really important to get a win early in the season, both for myself and the team. I’ve had a lot of close finishes over the last few months but not many wins. So it’s nice to finally get another one under my belt. I went to the Ruta del Sol last week hoping to get a result because I was in good shape. Then I got sick and spent the last week worrying about my form, hoping to have the legs I had before I got sick. I think I did,” said Woods at the finish line.
“I did this climb in the 2020 Vuelta time trial and I thought to myself it would be amazing if we finished up here. When I found out we would be doing this climb, I was excited because I knew it suited me. I knew I wanted to attack with 800 meters to go, because it was the steepest section. If I was able to get some separation, I would go all the way to the line and if not, I would wait for the sprint.”
A dominant team performance throughout the stage saw the breakaway reeled in with 20 kilometers to go and a fast pace set ahead of the 1,7-kilometer summit finish. A selection was quickly made on the Mirador do Ézaro, which featured eye-watering gradients of up to 28 percent, but it was an attack from Woods inside the final kilometer that would prove to be the winning move.
“The team work was excellent, actually exceptional. We rode from the front all day. We asked our two Conti riders [Derek Gee and Marco Frigo] to step it up and they delivered. The execution was perfect,” added Woods.
Woods crossed the line 16 seconds ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) and moved into the race lead with a 17-second advantage. With another day of climbing tomorrow before a 15-kilometer time trial on Sunday, a fierce battle for the General Classification awaits.
For Sports Director Oscar Guerrero, Woods’ win is an important one for Israel – Premier Tech.
“This final was made for Mike,” explained Guerrero. “It’s fantastic to have these feelings now. We started the season with a lot of seconds and thirds and there is a big difference. It’s a super day for us. The team worked very well, like they did yesterday, with a clear idea. We have a young guy like Marco Frigo pulling for two days and the whole team was super good with a strong commitment to our two leaders. Mike was feeling good and he rode really intelligently in the moment with an attack at the perfect time. He got the win and he also tried to take as much time as possible for the General Classification, but our big objective was the stage win. We have to enjoy the moment. Cycling is like this, when you can enjoy the moment, you have to.”
An impressive ride from Jakob Fuglsang saw the Dane cross the line in fifth place to sit in fifth overall, 39 seconds behind Woods, to give IPT another option, explained Guerrero.
“Tomorrow, we have another big stage with a hard last 50 kilometers. We will do our best. We also have the option of Jakob Fuglsang who is still in top five on the GC. We need to see how we are going.”