MTL GP & The World Champs

Looking back, now, at 2014, it is hard to believe what actually happened. My final two races of the season were no exception to this theme.

At GP Quebec, I had the ride of my season; I got in the late break, almost won the KOM, and got more high fives and fist pumps than a guy at a frat party.  It was cool, and as I prepped for, what I thought would be, my final race of the season–Grand Prix Montreal–my performance two days earlier in Quebec, left me feeling more like a rock-star than a cyclist.  Random people came up to me, as I rubbed hot balm on my legs, and told me “great race in Quebec Mike!”  Kids came up and asked for my autograph, and I posed for pictures like I was strutting down the red carpet.

If my ego wasn’t inflated enough at that point, it blew to the stratosphere when my buddies showed up wearing “The Official Mike Woods fan club” t-shirts, drawn up by Sandy Fulton.

Mike Woods Fan club

The level of support, and cheering I received at MTL GP was unreal.  So much so, that at one point while climbing up Cam. Houde, a rider from BMC turned to me and said “man, you have a lot of fans.”  It was awesome

Back in 2009, while I was sitting on a couch watching the Tour, I was still hatching a plan to try and make a comeback in running.  Never did it register that I would be racing against some of the guys I was watching, only a few years later.  With only 5km to go in this race, we came out of the descent from école polytechnique, and a rider in front of me began to open up a gap.  Desperately trying to hang on myself, I yelled “get the fuck out of the way!”  I sprinted around this rider, and just managed to latch on to the last wheel, as he faded behind.  The rider that I had come by, was the guy I watched come 4th in that Tour back in 09.

I doubt I have ever dug deeper in a race than in Montreal because of the fan support, and the high of racing so close to home.  There was a point in the closing km’s where I looked up from my handlebars and legitimately believed I saw two riders from Omega-Pharma Quick Step in front of me.  It took me about 400m to realize that those two riders were really one.   Because of my efforts, and having the support of my teammates, I crossed the line as the first Canadian.  Within moments of finishing, I was ushered to a podium, given flowers, and placed between two podium girls for some epic Facebook pics. With my head still spinning from getting pummelled by some of the best cyclists in the world, I then was told that I would be racing against all of the best cyclists in the world two weeks later, in Spain.

podium GP MTL

The World Championships were crazy. Having been selected only two weeks prior, and having now been almost two months removed from this race, the entire event feels more like a dream than a reality. Racing against guys that I watched on TV while nursing one of my many running related stress fractures, was surreal.   However as quickly as this dream evolved, it transformed into a nightmare even faster.

2014 Road World Championships Ponferrada Spain

I raced in my first word championships, like it was my first world championships.  Wherever I looked I saw, quite literally, legends of the peloton, and my appreciation and respect for these riders, would turn me into little more than a spectator at this race.  At both Montreal and Quebec, I constantly fought to be at the front of the peloton.  At the world championships, due to the combination of being star struck, and having a few very near crashes, I was far too complacent.  I gave other riders wheels when I should have been fighting to be in front.  When team Italy went to the front, and split the field in two, my inability to manage my emotions and focus would result in me being on the bad end of this split, and despite having good legs, I was unable to get across the gap that had been created.

It was devastating, and embarrassing, to watch the peloton speed away, as I struggled with a few other riders in a failed attempt to make it back into the race.  Fear, misguided focus, and complacency cost me in Ponferrada.  However, like the rest of 2014, the World Championships was a learning experience, and one of many, that I imagine I will call upon in the years to come.