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Woods back from bronchitis to hit new climbing heights at Volta a Catalunya

VALLTER 2000 SETCASES VALL CAMPRODON SPAIN MARCH 24 Arrival Michael Woods of Canada and Team Israel StartUp Nation during the 100th Volta Ciclista a Catalunya 2021 Stage 3 a 2031km stage from Canal Olmpic de Catalunya to Vallter 2000 Setcases Vall Camprodon 2125m VoltaCatalunya100 on March 24 2021 in Vallter 2000 Setcases Vall Camprodon Spain Photo by David RamosGetty Images
Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) finished eighth on the summit finish of stage 3 at the 2021 Volta a Catalunya (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

An untimely encounter with bronchitis this spring may have forced Michael Woods (Israel-Start Up Nation) to rethink his early-season race programme, but the Canadian says he is bouncing back way faster than he had hoped, and to unprecedentedly good levels in terms of his climbing, too.

Woods was forced to cancel his participation in Tirreno-Adriatico and switch to the Volta a Catalunya because of the illness, which, he told Cyclingnews, "knocked me and my whole family out for over a week."

"Coming into here I wasn't sure how my shape would be, but I'm quite pleased with how I'm regaining shape."

Currently lying 13th overall at 1:48, Woods took eighth on the first big Pyrenean summit finish at Vallter 2000, and then led the group of favourites over the line at Port Ainé for second on Thursday.

"I was gambling on [stage winner Esteban] Chaves (Team BikeExchange) being brought back on Thursday, but I haven't felt that good on a long climb in my career, really, so I was very pleased," Woods said.

Woods' switch in race program from Tirreno to Catalunya has also given him an opportunity to witness Ineos Grenadiers' crushing domination on both major Pyrenean stages. 

"They were certainly making a statement," he observed. "I'm sure they want to stamp their authority on the peloton. This is a battle at every race, and you want to show you have the strongest team."

Meanwhile, Woods is continuing his solo campaign of a carbon-neutral season, an initiative which he says is sparking widespread interest.

"All the positive comments and feedback have been amazing, I've had a lot of great suggestions. Obviously, it's going to be hard and I've spent a lot of time researching it, and even this week I've been disappointed with how much littering and going through bottles we get through.

"There have been things I know we can adjust. I've been using permanent utensils on the race and paid the carbon offsets for this as well. So far it's been a good start, but there's a lot of room to improve."

Woods will have plenty of opportunities to do that as he reverts to his scheduled 2021 campaign after Catalonia, starting with the Itzulia Basque Country the week after next and then going onto the Ardennes.

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.