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Michael Woods stinging with regret after missing shot at Flèche Wallonne top steps

MUR DE HUY BELGIUM APRIL 21 Michael Woods of Canada and Team Israel StartUp Nation on arrival during the 85th La Fleche Wallonne 2021 Men Elite a 1936km race from Charleroi to Mur de Huy 204m FlecheWallonne on April 21 2021 in Mur de Huy Belgium Photo by Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) was filled with frustration after falling just short of the podium at La Flèche Wallonne, feeling that his positioning on the lower slopes of the Mur de Huy had cost him a serious shot at success.

Woods, who finished third last year, was forced to play catch-up after being caught behind rows of riders when Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) launched an attack with 350 metres to go and eventual winner Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) and then Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) accelerated to follow.

“It was certainly frustrating, especially because the team rode so well for me,” said Woods in a team statement. 

“Krists [Neilands] put me in a really good position and I chose not to follow him at the very end because I thought it would be better to slot in and watch where Roglic was.

“But that wasn’t the original plan. The original plan was for me to stick with [Krists] and I regret not doing that because it put me in a bit of a fight and then I got botched several times, pushed several times, and I ended up in a really bad position, and just couldn’t respond when the guys [Roglic and Alaphilippe] went.”

Once he had clear road in front of him the 34 year-old-rider quickly left the rest of the chasers behind and made up ground on the leading trio with a powerful surge on the wall of a climb. But after starting off so far back, it was not enough to get him on terms with Alaphilippe, Roglič and Valverde. 

It was enough to leave him wondering what could have been if he had followed the wheel of Neilands, who was right at the front with 700 metres to go and appeared to be looking back to see where his teammate was.

“I’ve got a real bitter taste in my mouth right now because I felt like I was better than fourth today,” Woods said. 

The strength of the Israel Start-Up Nation team and Wood's form were a positive signs ahead of the final Ardennes Classic on Sunday, where Woods has been in the top ten of the last four editions, including a second place in 2018.

“I’m proud of how my legs were, I am proud of the team and we are all looking forward to Liège-Bastogne-Liège,” Woods said. 

“LBL is going to be even bigger for us. It’s a monument. No Canadian has ever won a monument and I think that where my legs are it is certainly a possibility for me to do well there.”