By Gregor Brown
Michael Woods said he could not have dreamt of winning a World Championship bronze medal when working as a bank teller just a few years ago.
The Canadian made the decisive move and placed third behind Spain's Alejandro Valverde and Frenchman Romain Bardet in Innsbruck, Austria, on Sunday.
The bronze medal comes just three weeks after Woods won his first Grand Tour stage at the Vuelta a España.
"To be a bronze medallist at the World Championships is not something that I could have dreamt of when I was working behind a teller stand at a bank a few years ago," the 31-year-old from Toronto explained.
"I think I started to show glimpses of these types of performances last year. This year, I've really stepped up my consistency and shown that now, as long as I am healthy, I can contend against the best riders in the world."
Woods competed as a runner until an injury forced him to quit at 20 years old. He finished his university degree in English and worked at a running shoe store and as a bank teller.
Only by chance, picking up his father's bike, did he start racing.
A string of top North American and European results landed him a spot on EF Education First-Drapac, then called Cannondale.
Over the last two years, he made huge leaps ahead, riding with Chris Froome in several mountain stages of the 2017 Vuelta a España and this year in the Spanish tour, winning a stage.
"This confidence and inner-belief has made racing at the WorldTour a lot less scary and a lot more fun," Woods said.
"When I first started racing at this level, I spent half of my races in fear of crashing or getting dropped. I'm seeing bike racing far differently, and when it goes well, it is damn fun."
Woods blasted away on the final climb of the Austrian course on Sunday. Italian Gianni Moscon and Dutchman Tom Dumoulin lost ground. Dumoulin rejoined later on the flat.
"I was disappointed in the immediate aftermath. I can't believe that I'm saying that now, but that's how I truly felt when I crossed the line," explained Woods.
"At 200 metres to go, I thought I was going to beat Valverde, but once I started to cramp, my chances faded away.
"No matter how good you are, you won't find yourself in a race-winning position with 300 meters to go that often at a World Championships. To be that close and have it go out the window because of cramping, in that moment, it was disappointing.
"After having 24 hours to think about it, I'm over the moon. I didn't sleep last night. That's how excited I was."
Woods races this weekend at the Giro dell'Emilia and closes out his season at Il Lombardia.
"[I] start shifting my focus to next year, I just hope I can continue to learn from these past results," he added.
"I'm aim to use this perspective to continue my progression in this sport and inspire more kids to get on bikes and more fans to cheer for a Canadian kicking it in the WorldTour."
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