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MONTE ZONCOLAN, Italy (VN) — The distinctive fluorescent EF-Drapac jersey was even easier to pick out of the crowd Saturday when Michael Woods bolted clear midway up Europe’s steepest climb.
The Canadian attacked with about 6.5km to go on Europe’s hardest climb, but he admitted he went too early. Woods crossed the line 10th, 1:43 behind stage winner Chris Froome (Sky).
“It was too early for sure. I got over-excited,” Woods said. “The boost of adrenaline you get when the fans are cheering and Fabrizio [Guidi] on the radio saying that I looked really strong, that got me going.”
Woods didn’t want to let the opportunity of attacking on one of cycling’s most famous climbs slip away. After Hugh Carthy went early to up the pace, Woods countered to find some daylight in front of the screaming tifosi.
“It’s the hardest climb I’ve ever done. It’s harder than the Angliru,” he said. “The Angliru is longer and has steeper pitches, but it has breaks in it. The Zoncolan is just relentless.”
Woods opened up a promising gap, but on a climb so steep and so grueling, pacing is key. Sky’s Wout Poels stretched out the pack before Froome made his stage-winning surge.
“If Poels wasn’t there, I would have been able to stay away and keep my rhythm. Sky was strong today,” Woods said. “There is no real draft on this climb. I thought if I got some space, I could ride my own pace and stay away. Poels was able to ride that rhythm.”
Woods climbed up to 12th on GC, now 5:26 behind Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott). The hunt for a stage win remains the priority.
“Tomorrow is a stage that suits me even better, with a bit shorter climbs,” he said. “I probably moved up a few spots on GC, but that isn’t my main goal here. My main goal here is to chase stages. Tomorrow is another day I can chase a stage.”