Giro d'Italia: Woods suffers illness, crashes but battles on

Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac) may have crashed on stage 11 of the Giro d'Italia, lost over a minute, and been fighting a chest infection for over a week, but the Canadian is determined to fight on for his first Grand Tour stage victory nonetheless. And he has the moustache to prove it.

Since last week, the riders and (male) members of staff of Team EF Education First-Drapac on this year's Giro d'Italia have all opted to grow moustaches until they get a stage win - when they will be shaving off.

But while Woods did his utmost to ensure the team ran amok with razor blades after Wednesday's summit finish to Osimo, rather than winning, the Canadian ended up fighting to limit his time losses by getting entangled in a crash with five kilometres to go.

"I took a bit of a risk because I thought I could win the stage. And there was a crucial point in the finale, five kilometres to go, and I was sitting about 15th, and I knew if I took the risk and moved up, I'd be in position five," Woods told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 12.

"And watching the replay now, that was where I had to be, 'cos that's when [Zdenek] Stybar (Quick-Step Floors) attacked and had I been in fifth place, I'd have been able to go with him and maybe had the legs to go with [Simon] Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) when he went for the win.

"But there was a gap, and I went for it, but it kind of closed on me as I was passing and just hit the fence."

Woods crossed the line in 40th spot at 1:05, and has slid down the GC to 16th, at 3:43 on Yates. The damage caused by the crash was relatively minor, a stitch needed in one knuckle on his left hand and some road rash on his right arm.

"Really, though, the consequence is feeling disappointed. My target here is really stage wins, more than the GC, so had I been going for time, then I wouldn't have taken that risk.

"So I'm not happy because I lost time, but I'm here to take risks so I can go for the stages."

In the bigger scheme of things, Woods has had a mixed Giro d'Italia so far, with a second place on one stage, at Caltagirone on the race's return to Sicily. But Sicily, too, was where a chest infection began and it's only now, with half of Italy crossed by the race on its northern trail to the Dolomites, that Woods is beginning to turn things around.

"The last week's been tough, because I've had this infection, so I'm on antibiotics as well, and this crash didn't help either," Woods observed. "But I seem to be getting over this, I'm coughing up less phlegm at the moment.

"I made a big effort on stage 4, came second, but I think going so deep there means my allergies really started kicking in, I was breathing in a lot of pollen, been reacting since and developed this chest infection.

"It's kind of been hampering me on the longer climbs, from the respiratory perspective. But we've got a good team of doctors here, they got me on antibiotics, and I'm starting to feel better as the days progress."

But if you thought that stages 12 and 13, being flatter, would be when Woods took a back seat to speed up his recovery and wait for the Zoncolan, you'd be wrong.

"No," he said. "We've got Sacha Modolo to go for the bunch sprints, and I want to do as much as possible to help him win."

Indeed, those Team EF moustaches might be gone before you know it.

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