Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac) dedicated his first Grand Tour stage win at the Vuelta a España to his stillborn son that his wife lost two months ago.
Woods rode clear from his escape companions in the mist of Balcón de Bizkaia, one of the Vuelta a España’s new climbs.
>> Subscribe to Cycling Weekly this Autumn and save 35%. Enjoy the luxury of home delivery and never miss an issue <<
The talented cyclist last year raced to seventh overall behind winner Chris Froome.
In 2018, he scored his first stage win and first WorldTour win.
Thoughts went immediately to his wife and Hunter, the name they had chosen for their expected son.
“My wife and I lost our son two months ago, she was 37 weeks pregnant, and he passed away,” Woods said.
“It was really really difficult, we were just so excited to bring him into this world, his name was Hunter, and it’s been a really tough year.
“My wife also lost her father a month before and it’s been a very hard year for us, I really wanted to win for him and win for my wife.”
Woods led the team in the Giro d’Italia but suffered from allergies.
He bounced back for the end of the year, riding strongly for EF leader Rigoberto Urán here in the Vuelta and earning a spot on Canadian team for the Worlds in just over two weeks.
He made the early escape that also included Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and team-mate Simon Clarke (EF Education First-Drapac).
The punchy day saw the roads either going up and down or left and right, or both.
Near the final, Woods could rely on Clarke’s experience.
“Simon winning on stage five took weight off our shoulders and he played such a big role today,” said Woods.
He spoke at the top of the climb deep in the heart of the Basque Country, which welcomed the victory with roads lined with fans.
Woods left behind Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing), David De La Cruz (Sky) and Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe).
Behind, 2-48 minutes back, Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) defended his red jersey lead.
“It was a very difficult climb, I think in the first two or three kilometres. I was able to breathe well and relax.
“Then when the first attacks went, I felt like one of the strongest guys in the peloton, and responding really well.
“I managed to answer some of the early attacks,” Woods said.
“Juanma [Gárate, team sports direct] came on the radio and told me, ‘Stay relaxed, just wait, just wait, you’ve got this.’ So I did.
“A climb only is only as hard as your form, and this year I felt good. I love this area, special area for me, so felt good. There were so many fans screaming my name.”
Teuns gave him the final bit of trouble. Woods responded and went clear in the final 400 metres.
He said he had bluffed at first, but then opened his throttle for the final push to the line.
“I thought that I didn’t have so many metres to go then I realised, man, so far to go,” Woods said.
“I just channelled my energy into thinking how tough this year has been and used my little guy Hunter as inspiration.”