Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac) “loves the Monuments” and wants to cap off a breakthrough season with Il Lombardia on Saturday.
With the way he has been going – third in the World Championships road race, and fourth in both the Giro dell’Emilia and the Tre Valli Varesine – Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) named Woods and his EF team-mate Rigoberto Urán as the favourites for the one-day Italian Monument.
“That’s more of an honour, you read so many press articles pre-race of these guys being mentioned and you wish for that to happen for your name to be there one day in the same line,” the Canadian told Cycling Weekly. “Now it’s happening. It’s a surreal experience, that’s why I’m enjoying and cherishing it.”
Woods blasted through the mist of the Basque Country to his first Grand Tour stage win in the Vuelta a España. He rode clear with eventual winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in the Worlds. Now, he lines up for one last 2018 race, starting in Bergamo and ending in Como after the Ghisallo and Sormano climbs.
“Excited for it? Big time. I love the one-days, especially the Monuments, and the way my form is and the way Rigo is riding, it’s going to be a great opportunity for the both of us,” Woods added.
“Maybe next year I’ll feel that pressure a bit more, but the way the season has go so far, any results now are just icing on the cake. I enjoy these interviews and limelight. Maybe next year it’ll be more of a pressure situation.”
Woods said after taking the bronze medal at the Innsbruck Worlds that he is starting to believe in himself now. With the Vuelta and the Worlds medal, he found confidence.
“It’s hard to tell yourself you can win a bike race when you haven’t done it before and when you don’t have the results to back that up,” Woods explained.
“Now I am getting to the point where I have those results, and have that respect in the team. I can be on the bus and say hey guys, ‘I think I can win today.’
“I have that confidence, I believe I can win. There’s so much doubting in the races when you don’t know, but if you can be in the final and think, ‘I can win this.’ That’s different.”
Woods’s “roller-coaster year” saw his wife, 37 months pregnant, stillbirth their son. They moved houses and just dealt with “a bunch of stress.”
“This season has been a roller-coaster year, huge ups and downs. I think if I had more stability from a family perceptive at home I wouldn’t have as many dips,” he said.
“I started showing results in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Giro d’Italia, but ended up getting sick in the Giro later. With some stability, I am getting the results I know I’m capable of, that’s getting me excited for 2019.
“If we can have a bit more of a stable situation for next year, not lose a son, not move houses and a bunch of stress in our lives, then things will hopefully go as well as this year, if not better.”
Woods travels back to Colorado and Canada after Lombardia to enjoy his off-season. He does not know where he will debut in 2019, but his programme will include the Ardennes Classics and the Giro d’Italia or the Tour de France.