Vuelta a Espana: Woods still firing on all cylinders in second week

Canadian set to revisit Canada's cycling history with Wednesday's climb over Velefique

Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac) continued where he left off in the overall classification battle at the Vuelta a España on Tuesday, although his mud-spattered bike, sitting outside the team bus after stage 10, was testament to what had been a hard day's racing through ridiculously heavy rain early on and a long climb over the Collado Bermejo at the end.

Arguably the trickiest, most stressful part of the day, though, came on the long, technical descent off the Collado through dense woodland to the finish. Woods, like many other riders, told Cyclingnews that, despite taking all precautions, he came within a whisker of crashing at one point, but overall he came through well.

"Descending was really good, I put a little less pressure in the tyres today," Woods said. The Canadian continues to sit eighth overall at 1:55 from Froome.

"I messed up the first part of the descent because I was a little too far back, I thought we had two extra kilometres left to go [to the summit] but in any case, I was feeling so good I was able to get by guys just before crucial points on the descent.

"I almost went off the road at one point, and kind of did. But otherwise, I managed to make that front group and was hoping we'd be able to stick away when it split but guys kind of eased up afterwards."

The race amongst the GC contenders had stayed fairly stable on the climb itself until Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) opened up hostilities just before the summit and then launched himself onto the downhill with a vengeance.

"[Vincenzo] Nibali's a crazy, fearless descender and he tried to test everybody by getting away, but there are quite a few good descenders in that group who could cover the moves," Woods said. "I wasn't quite up at the very front to cover anything but was able to watch everything and hope guys were able to keep the gaps together, which they did.

"I was the last guy in the group that did stay away. [David] De La Cruz (Quick-Step Floors), [Ilnur] Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) got dropped but they could get back on on the flat sections."

Quite apart from the stage itself, the day after a rest day is always a somewhat fraught one for the peloton, given it's never clear how their body will react to getting back into the action. In Woods' case in particular and Cannondale-Drapac's in general, it went well.

"We have a really good team here at Cannondale-Drapac with Nigel Mitchell our team nutritionist, and our team doctors here, Julian Colle and Jon Greenwell," Woods said.

"We have a really good protocol, we got in a sauna, just some short sessions to sweat a bit and get the liquids turning over, and making sure not to eat too much, just resting up, get a good massage, and kind of chill out and go for a ride."

"I think the entire team really nailed it. We had a really tough day before the rest day, but we were all pinging today [Tuesday], everyone was riding really well and I felt great."

On Wednesday's stage, the first major ascent the race will tackle in the Sierra de Filabres is the Velefique, where in 2009, on a day with nearly 6,000 metres of vertical climbing, Ryder Hesjedal became the first Canadian ever to win a stage of the Vuelta. "No pressure," Woods said with a wry grin when told of this piece of data about his fellow-countryman.

"Ryder's palmares is a bit hard to top, you know," Woods then pointed out. "He's won the Giro d'Italia, placed well in a number of big events and won two stages of the Vuelta [in 2009 and 2014] too. I'm not quite at his pedigree yet, but it would be sweet to take another victory for Canada."

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