An attack on the final climb of stage three in the Tour Down Under by Michael Woods shoved him into the spotlight of world cycling. He’s enjoyed success before but his move along with Sergio Henao of Sky made a few people pay attention. Rob Arnold spoke to Cannondale Pro Cycling’s new recruit who is now ranked fourth on GC and eyeing off the podium…
RIDE: My 10-year-old called yesterday – and he doesn’t usually get on the phone – and he’s like, ‘Dad, dad… just make sure you do one thing: go and speak with this Canadian guy! Find out about him.’ So, tell us a little bit about you. I understand you’re an old runner…
Michael Woods: “Yeah, I used to run 1,500 metres – the miles. I was a middle distance runner and and when I was like 18 and 19, I was one of the top guys in the world for the 1,500, for my age.
“I was ranked 48th in the world in 2006 but I was one of the youngest guys in the world ranking list.
“I was looked at as one of the guys who was going to go to the Olympics and do well in that discipline but several injuries to my foot kept me sidelined and eventually I had to quit running.
“I spent three or four years just wondering what I was going to do with my life and I fell into cycling just to stay fit.
“I’m a pretty competitive guy so once I started racing I really started enjoying that and got the ball rolling from there.”
And how old are you?
And where is home?
And will you live there through the season?
“No. It’s not possible. The winters are just too cold.
“I was only home for four days this winter and it was record-breaking heat: it hit 17 degrees – which is crazy. But two days after I left it hit minus-30.
“Normally it’s minus-10 to minus-30 around this time of the year so it’s just impossible to be there and put in big miles. You have to be on the trainer and that’s something that doesn’t really inspire big miles, which is what you need to do to be at this level.”
I understood that you came out pretty early this year, to Adelaide, so you knew the course…
“Yeah, my coach and our directors got together and we decided it would be really good to get here early and get heat-adapted just because the heat is such a big factor in this race.
“Being from Canada, you’re not really getting that adaptation at home.”
And so you knew the Corkscrew and obviously you thought it would suit you because you were positioned well…
“Yeah, I rode the Corkscrew several times just to visualise it but also the lead-up.
“The lead-up was, to me, the most important part because I knew I was putting good numbers in and if I got to the front I’d have a good shot at going after a good position at the finish.”
Riding with [Sergio] Henao, what sort of numbers were you putting out. Did you have a look at your file last night and what was it like?
“Ah, good numbers – obviously not as high as in training just because you’re fatigued from fighting all day – but Henao rode a great race. He’s strong and I’m looking at him for Willunga.
“There’s going to be other climbers who are going to be a factor but he’s got good legs right now.”
If you’re coming [here] with cycling as your second sport, effectively – for want of a better term – on a descent like that, you need to know what you’re doing on a bike. You were giving it some stick; was it frightening?
“Ah, yeah it was a bit frightening.
“I know the descent real well so that was crucial to my success yesterday, just doing the recon several times.
“When I first came into the sport I was terrible in that discipline. I had a lot of crashes, a lot of injuries but fortunately I did a lot of downhill skiing when I was a kid, a lot of hockey, and that gave me a good sense of speed and positioning and cornering – I found that to be very transferable for this sport.”
– Interview by Rob Arnold