Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) was once again among the strongest riders in an Ardennes Classic but for the second time in under a week, the Canadian was left to rue his positioning after missing out on a podium in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
The 34-year-old narrowly missed out on the podium in La Flèche Wallonne last week after admitting that he got his positioning and tactics all wrong on the Mur de Huy. On Sunday he looked to change his fortunes with an aggressive display. His team helped to set a fast pace during the early phases of the race and positioned their leader before the decisive climbs in the second half of the Belgian Monument.
Woods was present in a number of important moves and then initiated the winning attack on the La Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons with 13 kilometres to go.
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and eventual winner Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) were the only riders who could follow Woods on the steep slopes and the quintet made it all the way to the finish in Liège with the rest of the peloton unable to mount a successful chase.
Woods even managed a late attack during the long run-in to the line but even though he helped move Valverde to the front in order to lead out the sprint, Woods was left disappointed as he faded to fifth on the line. Alaphilippe and Gaudu went on to complete the podium with veteran Valverde in fourth.
“I’m really proud of how I raced. Unfortunately, I came fifth. I wanted to win, and I raced to win. But I just didn’t position as well as I could in that last sprint,” Woods said at the finish.
“I raced to win and I can’t be too disappointed. But it was a good day. My goal was to race with guts and I feel like I did, and the team rode really well behind me. It would have been nice to win but I’m still happy with my performance.”
Although disappointed with the result rather than the overall performance, Woods drew on the positives from the races at the Ardennes as a whole. He was competitive throughout the spring – despite illness forcing him to miss Tirreno-Adriatico and a crash taking him out of Itzulia Basque Country – and he led the line for Israel Start-Up Nation in his first Classics campaign for the team.
“Maybe I could have started the sprint from behind just because of the headwind. No, otherwise I was really proud of how I raced. I was aggressive, I attacked and I raced with heart and that’s all I could ask, that’s how I want to race and that’s the way to race. I can’t be too disappointed. I think this was a successful week – we raced so well as a team.”
Woods has little time to rest with the Canadian heading to Switzerland for the start of the Tour de Romandie, which begins on Tuesday.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for complete live coverage, results and reports from the race.
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