Mike Woods lone Canadian to finish Olympic men's road race
Ottawa native 55th, gets help from teammates Antoine Duchesne, Hugo Houle
By Doug Harrison, CBC Sports
Good thing Mike Woods was well rested for Saturday's men's road race at the Rio Olympics since it took more out of the Canadian than any running or cycling competition in his life.
Determined to see the end of the grueling 256.4-kilometre race that saw 78 competitors not finish and two others complete the competition over the time limit, the Ottawa native finished 55th of 65 riders after six hours 30 minutes 50 seconds of cycling in temperatures that hovered around 30C.
- RESULTS: Olympic men's road race
- SCHEDULE: Cycling at Rio 2016
- How the death of 1 dream led Mike Woods to Olympics
"Without a doubt that was the hardest race of my life," said Woods, a converted middle distance runner who added he threw up on the third of four climbs up the hilly and partly cobblestoned Grumari circuit, a 25 km loop that began stringing out the field.
"You can see my shorts, they're just caked in salt. I've never gone deeper in my life just to complete a race."
Greg Van Avermaet of Belgium who crossed the finish line in 6:10:05, outsprinted Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark and Rafal Majka of Poland for the win. The trio only came together in the final kilometre after Majka appeared headed for victory.
"This is the best title you can have, Olympic champion," Van Avermaet told reporters. "I had a great day and everything went perfect in the final 15 kilometres. Lots of guys crashed trying to take risks. I just kept it safe, stayed focused."
Greg Van Avermaet, your new Olympic men's road race champion <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RioOlympics2016?src=hash">#RioOlympics2016</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Rio2016?src=hash">#Rio2016</a> <a href="https://t.co/edd8K74u3Q">pic.twitter.com/edd8K74u3Q</a>—@SkyCycling
The two other Canadians in the race, Antoine Duchesne and Hugo Houle, failed to finish but they played a large part in helping Woods get in position on climbs.
"First time up I was feeling really good, I was perfectly placed by Hugo and Antoine, they did an amazing job and I felt great over the climb," said the 29-year-old Woods. "The second time, something exploded in my legs and I just came apart."
Best to <a href="https://twitter.com/CyclingCanada">@CyclingCanada</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/TeamCanada">@TeamCanada</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/Rio2016">@Rio2016</a> road race guys today! Toughest Olympic course ever. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/iceinourveins?src=hash">#iceinourveins</a> <a href="https://t.co/HUWzpER3e0">pic.twitter.com/HUWzpER3e0</a>—@jtolkamp
Woods, who believed he could have achieved a top-10 finish, was unable to recover for the descent.
He entered Saturday having completed fewer than two races since breaking three bones in his left hand at a race in Belgium in late April.
On July 30, Woods finished 61st of 113 riders at the San Sebastian Classic in Spain, two weeks after the Ottawa native was one of 85 riders to pull out of the Tour of Poland due to bad weather during Stage 5.
Duchesne, 24, was coming off a 16th-place finish in the Young Rider classification of the Tour de France this summer. The Chicoutimi, Que., rider was the lone Canadian in the race this year.
The 25-year-old Houle, who competed in the past two Giro d'Italia events, will race in the men's road time trial on Aug. 10 at 9 a.m. ET in Brazil.
A 2015 Pan Am gold medallist in the time trial, the Sainte-Perpetue, Que., native was the national champion in time trial a year ago and earlier this season finished second overall in the Tour de Beauce.