Michael Woods may be remembered as one of the luckier riders of lockdown, having broken his leg during Paris-Nice and his season at first appearing to be in tatters before coronavirus gave him the time his rehabilitation needed.
Winning on a computer-generated Mont Ventoux in the virtual Tour de France is as good a place as any to announce you’re back, but while the physical damage has been overcome, the crash, which left him lying on the side of the road in March, is still a psychological factor the EF Pro Cycling rider will have to contend with.
“I think the hardest part of this crash mentally was actually lying on the side of the road right after the crash,” Woods said. “The crash was so significant. It was so traumatic. I’m still impacted by it. Still think about it. And lying on the side road seeing the condition that my leg was in made me worried not just for the races to come but my career in cycling in general. It was terrifying. And yeah for sure that was the lowest moment because I knew it was broken the minute it happened.”
His biggest goals for 2020 seemed to be over before they’d even begun. But with the Tour de France moved back, the Olympics postponed until 2021 and the World Championships surviving cancellation and scheduled for the end of September, his personal perspective was a positive one.
“All those three things I really thought weren’t going to be happening. And then all of a sudden coronavirus happens and each day from a personal perspective, things almost got better.
“Each day my life just progressed. Each day I worked my butt off with a physical therapists based here in Spain. I just saw improvements each day and that made getting through this really dark period actually nice, mentally it made it something positive.”
Woods says he’ll take his Ventoux win as a confidence boost and that in the last few weeks his numbers are getting back up to his best. When the season restarts the Canadian will first turn his attention to a number of Italian one-day races: Strade Bianche, Milan – San Remo and Il Lombardia, the latter of which he will be trying for the win.
“We had a team camp back in Andorra last week and I was sparring with Hugh Carthy and whenever I’m able to hang with Hugh and finish up a hill with him, I know I’m gonna be going really well,” Woods said.
Another rider who’s won on Ventoux and hoping to get his career back on track after breaking their leg is Chris Froome, and Woods advises not to bet against the four-time Tour champion also getting back to his best.
“My injury certainly wasn’t as significant as Chris Froome’s. It was a really bad fracture but I was really fortunate that it was in an uncomplicated spot, it wasn’t in the joint, wasn’t in the hip, wasn’t in the knee, making for a far more straightforward recovery,” Woods explained.
“That being said, Chris Froome is the best Grand Tour rider of this generation, he’s a champion. He’s an incredible rider and there’s no reason with that attitude that he has that he can’t come back to his best level. Just knowing his personality, I don’t know him well, but seeing how he rides and hearing how his recovery’s gone, I wouldn’t bet against Froome.”