As Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac) lined up on Catania’s Via Vittorio Emanuele II Tuesday morning, he was coy about his status among the favourites for stage 4 of the Giro d’Italia, which finished with a stiff uphill kick in Caltagirone.
“I’ve never won a WorldTour race before, so I obviously can’t be considered the favourite until I do something like that,” Woods said. “But it’s one that I’ve certainly had marked on the calendar.”
Woods’ humility is perhaps a residue of his belated start in professional cycling following a previous existence as a collegiate middle-distance runner, but after placing second in Liège-Bastogne-Liège last month and 7th at the Vuelta a España last season, it was already self-evident that the Canadian fully merited his top billing.
On the pugnacious finale in Caltagirone, after almost five and a half hours of racing across the rugged and scorched hills of Sicily’s Monti Iblei, Woods offered a further confirmation of his abilities by claiming second place behind Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) after the leading group had fragmented on the stiff push to the line.
“I felt great throughout the day and I knew I was going to be on a good one today,” Woods said afterwards. “It was a really difficult and challenging last climb. Wellens just had the better legs.
I was trying to time it, and I tried coming around him, but I really just couldn’t.”
The road rose through the final kilometre at an average gradient of 8.5% and with pitches of 13%, but while it was clear that the finishing climb was well tailored to Woods’ aerobic capabilities, it was less certain if the sinuous approach to Caltagirone would be as comfortable a fit.
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