Canadian Mike Woods expects 2020 Tour de France to be more mentally exhausting than ever

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Delayed due to the global pandemic but still taking place under the specter of COVID-19, this year’s Tour de France promises to be like no other.The 21-stage, 3,484-kilometer race will start on Saturday in Nice and end on September 20 in Paris.

For Canadian cyclist Michael Woods, who will watch from the sideline, the 2020 Tour will be more demanding than usual from the start.

“I said if I was to miss a tour, this would be this one in a lot of ways,” Woods told The Canadian Press. “Although the course is really good for me, I think it will mentally be a really weird Tour, with everything going on around the Tour.

“With COVID. And with all the attention the cycling world has on this race because it’s so crucial for the sponsors. If this race does not end, a lot of sponsors could potentially leave, retire from cycling. So there is so much more pressure on every rider this year.

“And with a few teams on the brink, it may not continue next year, the riders are going to be even more desperate. So it’s just this perfect storm of madness that’s going to translate into a high stakes Tour, a lot of stress. and probably big crashes. We have already seen very big crashes this year in the first weeks of the race. Terrible crashes… It will be an eventful Tour. ”

Woods, who finished 32nd on the Tour last year despite a broken rib after several accidents, has a new role in this year’s race.

The 33-year-old Ottawa player, who will be leaving the EF Education First team for Team Israel Start-Up Nation next year, will serve as an ambassador for FloBikes, the streaming platform that has the exclusive rights to show the race in Canada.

The Tour traditionally takes place in July but has been postponed due to the pandemic. Teams risk being expelled from the race if two or more of their runners and staff test positive for COVID-19.

The Lotto Soudal cycling team has already had to send home several staff – a mechanic and a member of the runner support staff as well as their roommates – after “non-negative” coronavirus tests.

Come back soon

Woods is already sitting on this one.

“It will be hard not to be there, but it’s kind of the best way to participate,” said Woods, who will be hosting watch nights with fellow Canadians Alex Stieda and Svein Tuft during the FloBikes coverage.

Woods said he was told he would not be part of the EF Education Tour team until he announced his departure. His next race is the rescheduled Tirreno – Adriatico which will start on September 7 in Italy before competing in the UCI World Road Championships in Switzerland, if they occur.

Woods was sidelined earlier this year when he broke his femur in a high-speed crash on March 12 during the Paris-Nice race, just before the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a halt. cycling. He has competed in three races since his return to health – Strade Bianche, Milan – San Remo and Il Lombardia.

With the race schedule revamped due to the pandemic, the summer heat has taken its toll on Woods.

“Physically, I’m all there. I’m still pulling cobwebs from the running legs, ”he said.

The races also had a mental impact. He spent a month on the road, far from his wife and baby girl.

The sporting landscape is further disrupted by protests against racial inequalities and police violence. Woods says the ripple effect of these will be felt by the runners.

“Cycling is a mental sport. There are so many things that come into play, ”he said. “Having a unique focus is the best way to ride and the safest way to ride and the best way to get results. With everything going on in the world, it’s much harder to maintain that focus.

“It’s very, very difficult to be a robot. I follow the news every day and I see what’s going on. It’s hard to get away from it, to focus on sport because there are bigger things at stake. ”

Breed changes

This year’s Tour does not feature a team time trial. There is only one individual time trial, covering 36 kilometers, in the penultimate stage.

The heat should be less of a factor for the Tour, although Woods expects more rain than usual due to the schedule change.

Defending champion Egan Bernal of Colombia, who is part of Team Ineos (formerly Team Sky), is set to challenge again with Primoz Roglic of Slovenia and Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin, both of whom ride for Team Jumbo – Visma.

Roglic, fourth in the 2018 Tour, crashed at the Criterium du Dauphine but recovered. Woods thinks that if he’s healthy, he might be the man to beat. Dumoulin was a finalist in 2018.

Colombian Rigoberto Uran, second behind British star Chris Froome in 2017, will lead Woods’ current squad.

The only Canadian competing is Hugo Houle, a support rider for the Astana Pro Team. The 29-year-old from Sainte-Perpetue, Que., Finished 91st in the Tour last year.

“Hugo is an exceptional driver. One of the best servants on the World Tour, ”Woods said of his good friend. “He’s definitely going to play a role for Astana frontman Miguel Angel Lopez. “

Rejoindre Team Israel Start-Up Nation

Woods will join Froome at Team Israel Start-Up Nation. Froome, four-time winner of the Tour de France, is not part of Team Ineos’ roster for the Tour. The Briton, who is coming back from injury, will instead focus on the Spanish Vuelta in October.

Geraint Thomas, winner of the 2018 Tour, is also missing for Team Ineos. He was appointed responsible for the Giro d’Italia, also in October.

The Jumbo-Visma team lost the Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk in a crash at the Criterium du Dauphine.

Woods, who now resides in Andorra, joins fellow Canadians Guillaume Boivin, Alex Cataford and James Piccoli in the nation’s start-up team of Team Israel.

Founded in 2014 as the Israel Cycling Academy, Team Israel Start-Up Nation is co-owned by Sylvan Adams, a former Canadian Masters cycling champion who emigrated to Israel in 2015.

Woods’ cycling recovery includes a victory in the 2019 Milan-Turin one-day race, a stage victory at the Spanish Vuelta 2018, a bronze medal in the road race at the 2018 world championships and a second place in the historic Liège-Bastogne- One day race in Liège in Belgium in 2018.

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