Despite an early crash, despite his injuries, and despite being defeated in his breakaway plans, Michael Woods (EF-Education First=Drapac) nonetheless cut a defiant figure at the finish of stage 7 of the Vuelta a España.
Despite falling hard early on and suffering cuts and bruises down his right side, with his race clothing ripped to shreds at the shoulder, Woods was the last of an early breakaway move of seven - which had hung in there despite being pegged back to a two or three minute lead for most of the stage - to be reeled in by the combined forces of Movistar and Bora-Hansgrohe.
Speaking at the finish the Canadian told Cyclingnews that he would have felt more satisfied if had he taken the win and not crashed. But he was proud, too, of how Team EF-Education First were performing in this year's Vuelta a España.
"I crashed early on and on the same leg that I ripped up in a crash in Utah so I'm pretty disappointed about that, I lost a bit of skin there," Woods told Cyclingnews. "It's bleeding quite a bit, but no impact damage, just some road rash."
Woods said he remained determined on the stage, despite the surface wounds, to try to go the distance with the break.
"I knew if I had two minutes at the base of the [final third category] climb I'd have a shot, but then when I heard it was 20 seconds, I really didn't think I'd have a chance.
"I thought I might as well try, have a dig, you didn't know if the peloton might ease up. But they didn't and they kept a good tempo and they just caught me at the top" - around nine kilometres from the finish.
Brutal changes of road surfaces and racing conditions throughout the stage proved tough, Woods said.
"It was a tough day, Bora rode hard all day and really didn't give us any leash," Woods said. "We really rode hard in the last 50km, trying to increase our gap, but the momentum in the peloton really closed the race down on us.
"But I'm very proud of how the team are riding here in the Vuelta right now. We're really showing our colours every day, getting into breaks, Simon [Clarke] got that win, we ripped the race up in the crosswinds [on stage 6], Rigo [Urán] is riding great, and Pierre [Rolland] has been showing himself strongly in the breaks in the first three days. It's being a really nice race for us."
And coming at the end of a roller coaster season of results for EF-Education First, doing so well in the Vuelta must feel even better.
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 Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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