Road

Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var stage 2: Michael Woods blows field off his wheel to storm to victory

Canadian puncheur moves into GC lead with one stage remaining.

Michael Woods opened his Israel Start-Up Nation account with a storming victory at the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var on Saturday.

The Canadian punched clear on the upper slopes of the punishing finishing wall to distance Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers), who took second and third-pace respectively.

“It was excellent, the team rode so well for me and I’m just glad I could return the favor,” Woods said shortly after the finish, before thanking team management and the mentors that have guided him through his career as a cyclist.

“Sylvan [Adams] and Paulo [Saldanha] bought me onto the team to get wins like this and it started off right so I’m really happy,” he said.

 

Woods’ victory gives him a one-second lead on GC heading into Sunday’s short, mountainous final stage.

Ineos Grenadiers crank the pace but cannot control Woods

Having controlled for much of the race, Ineos Grenadiers bossed the peloton and swept up the break heading into the finishing climb in Fayence, which measured some 1200 meters averaging 9.8 percent gradient, though with several steeper pitches.

With positioning into the twisting Fayence climb being pivotal, Ag2r-Citroën, Israel Start-Up Nation, and Astana-Premier Tech also began swamping to the front to position their leaders.

A lead group of around 40 riders hit the base of the climb together as Ag2r-Citroën took control at the front, with Greg Van Avermaet initially to the fore before fading. Alexis Vuillermoz (Total Direct Energie) tried to make a move twice in the shallower opening 600 meters to make no ground on the group, which stayed together for the opening minutes of the tough climb.

Woods made it count midway through the ascent when the gradient pitched up to almost 15 percent, with only Narváez, Mollema, David Gaudu and Valentin Madouas (both Groupama FDJ) able to hold his wheel. Woods edged clear through the steepest slopes as all but Narváez faded.

“I felt good and I knew I had to commit to that climb,” Woods said of his powerful move.

Heading into the final 200 meters, Mollema refound his legs to come past Narváez and lead a strong chase through the final seconds, but there was no stopping the charging Canadian as he scored his first win in an ISN jersey. Mollema crossed the line one second later, with Narváez close behind him.

Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers), Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Dan Martin (Israel Start Up Nation) were in the lead group shortly behind the leaders at 13 seconds. Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) finished 1:46 back.

Escapees survive through to Fayence

After a fast and furious opening hour of racing through the foothills of the Alps, Biniam Ghirmay, Clement Berthet (both Delko), Victor de la Parte (Total Direct Energie), Hugo Houle (Astana-Premier Tech), Andrea Mifsud (Swiss Racing), Cyril Barthe (B&B) and Dylan Kowalski (Xeliss-Roubaix) went clear.

The septet gained around five minutes before Trek-Segafreo and Ineos Grenadiers upped the pace to begin hoovering the escape group at around 20k.

Houle, Da la Parthe, and Barthe were last men standing before the Ineos-led bunch made the catch inside the final 4km as the race approached the Fayence finishing wall.

Top results on stage 2:

It took just two days for Woods to get his first win with Israel Start-Up Nation. Photo: James Startt
  1. Michael Woods: 4:16:54
  2. Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo): +00:01
  3. Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers): +00:03

GC after stage 2:

  1. Michael Woods: 9:07:15
  2. Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo): +00:01
  3. David Gaudu (Groupama FDJ): +00:06