It would be difficult for Canadian sports fans not to have a soft spot for the Giro d’Italia. In 2012, Ryder Hesjedal claimed the country’s first, and only, Grand Tour victory there, in a triumph that acted as a beacon of inspiration for its cycling community. Six years on, it still does.
Breaking ground for Canada
As for his own chances of raising the bar on Hesjedal, Woods is realistic, recognising that he is several rungs down the ladder from realistically conceiving that. “The only way I can improve on that, personally, is to win myself, but that’s a tall task,” he argues. Rather, as Woods puts it, “I’d like to be a guy who’s consistently at the front of the race and not just a participant. Even at the Vuelta in 2017, I was starting to show glimpses of how I could get to the front of the race. I was up there with Froome and Contador on some of the shorter climbs.
“It must have been something in the buffets because several riders got sick and it hit me really hard, I ended up going to hospital and losing a bunch of weight,” Woods told Cyclingnews before Liège. “My confidence took a bit of a knock, it was not a good situation and it took me a while to bounce back. At Catalunya, I was on my hands and knees and then in Pais Vasco. I started to get a bit more momentum.
Now into his third Grand Tour, Woods has some benchmarks when it comes to rating this year’s Giro’s route. “[It’s] not as insanely difficult as last year, even if each Grand Tour is still hard. Mentally, dealing with such a long period of time and distance is always a challenge regardless of the course,” he says.
That said, when he flew directly from Liege to Italy last Monday for a last-minute recon of the Zoncolan climb, widely rated as the single most difficult climb of the entire race, he was suitably impressed by what he and the rest of the Giro peloton will be handling three weeks from now.