The Canadian star isn’t bitter. Why? Because he’s not seriously injured, and he still harbors ambitions for a stage win and a successful Olympic Games.
Yet the Israel Start-Up Nation leader is frustrated and angry with how the opening stages in the hilly terrain of France’s Brittany region played out.
“The main responsibility is coming down on the UCI and the race [commissaires],” Woods told VeloNews. “There needs to be more thought put into the safety of the riders.”
Riders fell like dominoes in a series of dangerous, high-speed crashes in stages 1 and 3. Woods — whose personal ambitions of a top-10 overall evaporated in an instant in a high-speed pileup in stage 1 — put the blame firmly on the powers that be in professional cycling.
“The UCI particularly wants to make a safer sport, but they’re not taking the right measures to make a safer sport,” Woods said. “They say they’re banning the aero-tuck and these things, but these things are not causing the big crashes. What’s causing the crashes are the nature of the roads, and how many riders are doing these races.”
‘It could have been so much worse’
Woods lost more than eight minutes in the second of the two major crashes that marred the 2021 Tour’s opening stage. The Canadian came into the Tour with leadership duties.
“It was a disappointing start for me, especially with the crash, because it took me out of my top ambitions for this race,” Woods said. “I really felt like I had good legs and that I could do something special. That doesn’t mean I cannot still go for a stage win, and I still feel good. This is also great preparation for the Tokyo Olympics, and those things are still in play, so I cannot be too disappointed.”
Several of Woods’ Israel Start-Up Nation teammates were caught up in crashes, including four-time winner Chris Froome.
After taking the air out of his GC ambitions, Woods is on what he called a “gran fondo” tour until the mountains arrive in the Alps this weekend.
“After [Monday’s] stage, I got on the bus, and thought, ‘Maybe it was a blessing in disguise,'” Woods said. “It was so dangerous, and I would not have wanted to be at the front, fighting for position, so you’re going to see me at the back of the peloton for the next few days until the mountains.
“I am pretty scraped up, but when I watch the images and when I think back on the crash, I am super-lucky to be in the condition that I am. It could have been way worse.”
Many factors add up to danger
So what’s causing the stress in the bunch?
“You cannot put your finger on one thing,” he said. “This is a combination of many things — the technology, the speeds, the courses are too dangerous, riders too anxious, directors pushing too much … and all the road furniture that’s coming in the last few years.
“Even adding the ‘pro-conti’ teams, I know it’s a controversial subject, but you’re adding a lot of bodies into the mix. I really think we can reduce the size of the peloton and make these courses cleaner.”
— Michael Woods (@rusty_woods) June 29, 2021
Woods confirmed that riders asked to extend the “safe zone” in Monday’s downhill and technical finale on narrow roads that saw the likes of Primož Roglič crash late in the stage.
“We proposed it and it was turned down by the UCI,” he said. “That’s a real source of anger for me. We saw this, we called this. We saw with 5km to go it was dangerous, and it was going to be very hectic. We would have saved a lot of broken bones and a lot of riders would be a lot healthier if the UCI proved.”
Woods supported the rider protest early in Tuesday’s fourth stage, which fortunately unfolded without any major mishaps.