After Friday's 'transition stage' Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac) remained inside the top ten on GC as the Vuelta a España heads back into the mountains on Saturday. Even though the flat stage to Tomares was a relatively easy ride, the Canadian pointed out the intensity of the racing in the Grand Tour for the overall contenders never drops for an instant.
13th on the stage and on the right side of several splits in the peloton, Woods said he had been well protected by his teammates in what was a technical and fraught final, and he remains at eighth overall. The intense heat, the early fights to get in the break and a long, fast day in the saddle made what was theoretically a transition stage a real battle throughout.
"I managed to finish in that front group of maybe 20 guys. The team did an amazing job, we took to the front really early, I had Toms Skujins right in the front, and then Simon [Clarke] was just orchestrating everything really well. Tom Scully placed us really well as well and [Tom] Van Asbroeck had a good kick [placing fifth - Ed.] and I managed to finish on same time so definitely a success today."
Most of the GC riders finished in the top 30 on Friday, Woods pointed out – and it's something Chris Froome (Team Sky) has said before – the Vuelta a España never lets up on the pressure on the overall contenders.
"One or two guys probably lost a few seconds today for sure, even today was a challenge for the GC guys, you always have to be on," Woods said. The official result demonstrated that, with Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) and David De La Cruz (Quick Step Floors) all losing seven seconds. The top ten on GC has, once again, jiggled slightly.
"Saturday, though, will be a much bigger test for sure," Woods said, and as an out-and-out climber and with his current condition, he could only have one answer when asked if he was looking forward to getting to grips with the mountains again: "Big time."