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Michael Woods out after Itzulia crash: ‘I don’t want to make things worse’

No major injuries as the Canadian star remains focused on top targets at Ardennes classics later this month.

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Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) pulled the plug on Itzulia Basque Country after suffering injuries Wednesday in a heavy crash during the final kilometers of stage 3.

The Canadian rider said he didn’t want to “make things worse” ahead of the Ardennes classics later this month and opted not to start stage 4 on Thursday. Team doctors diagnosed bruises to his left hand and shoulder.

“I’m pretty disappointed to abandon the race,” Woods said Thursday. “I was on really good form and I still am, but I have to take a look at the bigger picture. My main goals are the Ardennes, and I don’t want to make things worse.”

Woods was a pre-stage favorite Wednesday but hit the deck among parked cars on the high-speed approach into the final climb that featured ramps as steep as 20 percent. Woods was able to finish but came in nearly 10 minutes behind stage-winner Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates).

Woods, who battled back from a broken femur in 2020, said he did not want to put the upcoming Ardennes classics at risk. Races such as Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège are at the center of Woods’ ambitions in 2021.

Also read: Michael Woods finds salvation in recovery

“My hand’s pretty sore at the moment and so is my neck,” Woods said. “I just think it would be a bit of a risk to continue racing and a risk to the Ardennes. I know I’ll be back, and I know I’ll be feeling good in a few days, and I’ll be good for the Ardennes. My teammates rode really well yesterday and set me up for a good result and I really wanted to finish it off for them, but I just had some back luck. That’s bike racing sometimes, but I’ll be back.”

Also read: Itzulia Basque Country stage 3: Tadej Pogačar bests Primož Roglič in brutal uphill finish

Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) was forced to abandon Wednesday after being involved in the same crash. Kelderman started ninth place overall, just 40 seconds off the race lead. The Dutchman suffered injuries to his head and ear as well as multiple abrasions in the crash.

Kelderman, who is also scheduled to race at the Ardennes, made his season debut last month at the Volta a Catalunya after fracturing his vertebrae when he was hit by a driver during a training crash in January.