Vuelta a Espana

Michael Woods leverages mountains, team tactics, to capture Vuelta a España stage

There is the pre-race plan, and then there is what happens on the road. Here is how Woods played his hand perfectly.

It wasn’t the plan, but it worked to perfection.

Continuing his triumphant return from a horrible crash earlier in the season, Michael Woods (EF Pro Cycling) attacked the breakaway he initiated to win stage 7 of the Vuelta a España.

Using textbook team tactics and some of the better climbing legs in the business, Woods went all-out when he had to, but sat on the break when he was able to in the closing kilometers.

Woods attacked what was a massive breakaway on the final Cat. 1 climb of the day Tuesday, going solo over the top of the Puerto de Orduña, but was soon joined by four riders, including Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde, who started the day in tenth overall, 3:00 back on Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers).

With his teammate Hugh Carthy sitting second overall, 18 seconds behind Carapaz, Woods had clear reason not to work in the break, as doing so would assist Valverde in gaining time on the general classification.

“I got away with those four guys and they were riding super strong,” Woods said. “I felt bad I couldn’t pull through, but with Valverde in the group I couldn’t pull through because we had Hugh Carthy in the peloton and didn’t want to give him any more time in the general classification. So I was able to sit in a bit, and then had a bit of luck and the legs, and was able to get the win.”

Initially, the quartet that also included Omar Fraile (Astana), Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), and Nans Peters (AG2R-La Mondiale) rotated well, with Woods sitting on behind. As the riders looked to him to work, he explained that he could not.

Then, as the other four began to attack and counterattack, Woods would follow, but not attack nor work himself. And when the road kicked up in the final kilometer, Woods gave it everything, got a gap, and held it to the line.

The win illustrated how pre-race plans are often exactly that — and improvisation, luck, and reading the race as it plays out often define what actually happens on the road.

Woods said he had his eye on the stage win, but not like it happened.

“I penciled it in a bit, but initially I wasn’t supposed to be in the break, I was supposed to be with Hugh,” he said. “But the race got so crazy and the group got so crazy that I had to go across just to make sure we had numbers in it. It paid off for me.”

With 11 more stages and plenty of mountains to come, could the Canadian get another stage win?

“I’m going to savor this one and after that I’ll start looking at the racebook,” he said.