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Michael Woods right on track after Gran Camino podium

Israel-Premier Tech leader finishes behind Valverde in Spain as Gee takes shock fifth in final time trial.

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Michael Woods (Israel-Premier Tech) believes that he’s back on track after he was struck with illness at start of the season. The Canadian won a stage and finished second overall in Gran Camino behind perennial rival Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team). The result represented a change of form and fitness for Woods who was forced out of Ruta del Sol with illness in early February.

Woods won the second stage in Gran Camino by putting 16 seconds into Valverde and then finished second behind the Spaniard a day later on the road to Luintra.

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Woods went into the final stage — a 15.8-kilometer time trial — with a 10-second lead over Valverde but the Spaniard overturned the deficit to run home the overall title by seven seconds. Mark Padun (EF-Education EasyPost) won the race against the clock, but despite losing the overall lead on the final stage, Woods came out of the stage race with his morale moving in the right direction.

“I’m really pleased with my time trial today,” said Woods.

“Especially considering how the last 24 hours went as I wasn’t feeling very well and I think the stomach bug from last week has reared its ugly head again a bit. Last night I was even thinking I might not be able to race but then I felt good this morning. I’ve been doing a lot of work on the TT bike and although I didn’t hold onto yellow, I still finished in tenth in the stage and I’ve never had a top ten in a time trial before so I can be really happy with my performance today.”

It’s not clear where Woods will race in March as he builds up for an assault on the Ardennes classics but the 35-year-old believes that he’s turned the corner after his disappointing start to the campaign.

“I’m right on track now,” he said after sealing second overall in Spain.

“The goal of this race, especially after getting sick last week, was to use it as a building race and to still be building and finish second overall in a stage race and win a stage are signs of good things to come.”

There was further reason for Israel-Premier Tech to smile at the conclusion of the weekend after Derek Gee claimed a shock fifth place in the time trial. Gee was drafted from the Israel Academy continental team due to the number of WorldTour riders recovering from COVID, but the 24-year-old put in a sensational performance to finish just 11 seconds down on Padun.

“It was definitely the best time trial I’ve ever done by a long way,” Gee said.

“It was really cool to do that here. It has been an amazing week learning from these guys who are some of the best in the sport and some of the most experienced in the sport. So to be able to race with them and then finish it off with a performance that I am really proud of, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

“I had absolutely no idea how well I was going. I figured it was the last stage so I would go full gas and see how it went. I wasn’t looking at numbers or anything and it was only when I crossed the line, Alexis, the soigneur, told me. I couldn’t believe it. I was hoping for a top 15 so I am really, really happy.”