The American team amassed on the front of the bunch inside the five kilometres as the race approached punchy unclassified climb. Simon Clarke upped what had already been an unrelenting pace set by Movistar, with Pierre Rolland dropping back to help with the effort before Michael Woods pushed clear of the group altogether.
With a tough fight to get into the breakaway that lasted almost 100 kilometres, the riders had already been pushed to their limits and the group broke apart on the incline. The effort didn't go completely to plan with the team's GC leader Rigoberto Uran unable to follow Woods, who suddenly found himself alone off the front. Though Uran would not gain any time as a result of the move, Woods is still happy with the result.
"It was hard but a lot more like an Ardennes Classic so, for me, it was fun," Woods said after the stage. "We knew that it would be difficult, we spoke about it in the team meeting but it was even harder than a lot of people, including myself, thought that it would be. The first two hours were savage. I think that we averaged 48kph an hour with two categorised climbs. It was insane.
"The plan was for me to attack with Rigoberto on my wheel but he just missed the wheel a bit. I tried to give him as much of a springboard as possible but then I had a gap. I wasn't going for the stage win at that point because there were so many riders up the road but I wanted to try and be a bit of a foil. Even though the gap opened up, I think that there were only about 12 riders by the time we crested that climb. I am happy with the move just because Rigoberto is now sitting in a better position."
With the bigger tests still to come this week, Uran is nestled inside the top 10 in eighth place at just 32 seconds behind the red jersey of Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scot). Uran lost most of his time in the opening time trial, and a few seconds here and there since, but has been riding comfortably with the top riders on the key climbs so far. The team has also been boosted by a stage win in the first week from Clarke – the team's first at WorldTour level this season - and Woods is full of excitement as he talks about the prospect of what is to come.
"I think it's really high," Woods said of the team's confidence. "This has been a really strong team throughout this race. We've been firing on all cylinders with Simon getting a win and us smashing it in the crosswinds a few days back and with Pierre smashing the breaks. The morale is really high right now and Rigoberto is looking really good. There are lots of stages left and lots of excitement on the bus."
Woods is easily identifiable in the pack at the moment, and not just for the brightly coloured team kit but the bandages covering his injuries from previous crashes. The Canadian said that he'd harboured hopes of a solid GC effort, but a fall last month set his ambitions further back.
"I've had a rough last few weeks with crashes but now it really feels like I'm coming around. I really wanted to use this race as an opportunity for the World Championships," Woods explained. "I initially wanted to come into this race as a GC contender but with the crash at Utah I had to reset my focus and now I'm thinking of the World Championships and the Italian Classics."
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