Canadian Michael Woods hopes to cap off his breakthrough 2018 season with a maiden monument victory at Il Lombardia.
The Canadian, after a string of top results, is one of the favorites to win, alongside EF Education First-Drapac teammate Rigoberto Urán.
“Maybe next year I’ll feel that pressure a bit more, but the way the season has gone so far, any results now are just icing on the cake,” Woods told VeloNews.
“I enjoy these interviews and limelight. Maybe next year it’ll be more of a pressure situation.”
This week, his form seems to be continuing with fourth place in both the Giro dell’Emilia and the Tre Valli Varesine. Wanting to profit in his final 2018 race, he previewed the 241-kilometer Lombardia course to familiarize himself with the climbs like Ghisallo and the Muro di Sormano. The race ends with a descent to the lakeside in Como after the Civiglio and Monte Olimpino climbs.
“I’m big-time excited. I love the one-days, especially the monuments and the way my form is and the way Rigo [Uran] is riding, it’s going to be a great opportunity for the both of us,” continued Woods.
“[Teammate] Simon Clarke took us through a recon of the course, we stayed at his place in Varese after the Tre Valli race. It’s a really tough course, it’s a bit different than two years ago when I last raced. I made the front group then and got dropped on the descent. I didn’t have it in the descending department.
“It’s not as hard as the one two years ago, but with that Muro di Sormano, that’s a vicious climb, it’s going to zap the guys’ legs.”
The Muro di Sormano climbs two kilometers, up 304 meters in elevation, averaging 15.8 percent and hitting 25 percent in parts — that’s why it is ‘the wall.’ In total, from the first pitches to the final peak back on the main road, it covers 7.1 kilometers. Woods will have a 38-tooth small chainring up front and a 32-tooth cog in the back.
“I’m excited for it, but nervous a bit too. The Muro di Sormano is at the tail-end of my range of climbing abilities. I find that once it’s over seven or eight kilometers. I’m not as strong over that distance. Traditionally I’m better on the shorter climbs.”
Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), last year’s winner, named Woods and Urán as the favorites.
“That’s more of an honor. You wish for that to happen, for your name to be there one day in the same line. Now it’s happening. I’m enjoying and cherishing it,” Woods added, referring to Nibali’s comments.
“Simon’s [Clarke] a local pro, he’s been such a leader, just knowing the area so well. He’s done every iteration of the course, he’s given us good insider knowledge of how the race will play out. It eased my fears knowing a bit how it will play out after the Sormano. That’s a tricky descent; that’s where Laurens De Plus and Jan Bakelants crashed last year. Simon also showed me some good places to get some recovery between the climbs.”
The road travels south along Lake Como to reach the city before turning inland again for the last two climbs.
“I think there’ll be a significant group after Sormano, but the fireworks are really going off on the last climb,” Woods added.
“Thibaut Pinot will have to have to be marked. … Romain Bardet, I think he’ll go better in this longer race, he rode so well in the worlds. Alejandro Valverde, besides doing the world champion parade, he’ll be the guy to watch. And you can never discount Nibali.”