Woods ramps up Ardennes preparation at Volta a Catalunya

Canadian aiming for debut Tour de France this July

If the cycling world needed a reminder that Michael Woods was back after a lengthy spell without racing, he provided it with exactly that via a brief late attack on stage 2 of the Volta a Catalunya.

The EF Education First rider is still finding his form after not racing since his stage win and third place in the Herald Sun Tour in Australia in early February. Later this spring the Canadian will target the Ardennes Classics, where he took a breakthrough podium finish in Liege-Bastogne-Liege last year.

“Life’s good,” Woods told Cyclingnews, “I had some time off after the SunTour, and then I’ve been in Catalonia and Andorra for the last six weeks enjoying the amazing weather and starting preparations for the season.

“I had an intense start and needed a bit of a break. Coming into here, I’m probably not going to be at my best, I’m in good form but I’m not race sharp yet.

“I want to see where I am, not going to try to lose time, see where I am after stage 3 and then we’ll make some decisions.”

Woods has ridden Catalunya four times now and so is “starting to know where I am here.” And in the case of Valter 2000, Wednesday’s big climb, Woods is well aware of what the climb will demand.

Last year, when Valter 2000 should have been on the Volta menu for stage three, sub-zero temperatures and roads blocked with snow meant Woods could only recon part of the climb and then the climb was taken out of the stage.

This time, both for the recon and Wednesday’s stage - with dry, sunny conditions expected for the Pyrenees - is a very different story.

“Last year we couldn’t get up Valter 2000, this year me and Taylor Phinney did an amazing recon ride up it, 200 kilometres - we slammed ourselves,” Woods revealed.

“It’s not a crazy difficult climb, but the two climbs [the first category Oix and Rocabruna -ed] prior to it make it very difficult, especially with the technical descents.

“That will thin out the bunch and then it’s a solid, steady, 40-minute climb. For sure, it’s my first big climb, it's altitude is not insignificant either, it starts at 1300 metres and goes up to over 2000 metres. A good test for everybody and that’s why you have such a good roster here.”

Woods main spring target, though, will be the Ardennes Classics, preceded by the Vuelta al Pais Vasco.

He is also hoping to do his first Tour de France this summer, pointing out, amongst other reasons, that “I’ve done both other Grand Tours twice now and I feel I’m ready to do it.”

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