Ottawa

'I wish this moment didn't pass as fast': Mike Woods reflects on Tour de France

If he could have it his way, Ottawa's Mike Woods would be able to bask in the glory of finishing the Tour de France just a little longer.

Ottawa native placed 32nd in prestigious men's race that ended on Sunday

Mike Woods crosses the finish line during the 13th stage of the Tour de France. After the 21st and final stage on Sunday, Woods ranked 32nd among 155 cyclists. (Christophe Ena/The Associated Press)

If he could have it his way, Ottawa's Mike Woods would be able to bask in the glory of finishing the Tour de France just a little longer. 

On Sunday, the rookie placed 32nd out of 155 cyclists from around the world, and he managed to do it with a pair of broken ribs.

"I wish that moment didn't pass as fast as it did because it was incredible," he told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Tuesday about crossing the finish line.

"It was just this magical moment and this moment of accomplishment. It was just a really special time."

The final night of the race, friends and fans in Canada sent endless messages congratulating him, he said. But Woods decided to ditch his phone to celebrate with his family, wife and close friends who were with him in France to cheer him on. 

"I just made sure I was hanging out with the people I love most."

This was Woods's first time at the Tour de France. (Thibault Camus/The Associated Press)

'I can get through'

The accomplishment didn't come without pain.

Woods managed to avoid a pileup during Stage 11 of the race, but was later hit from behind, sending him off his bike. He landed on his side, on top of his radio.

That night he woke up in pain and knew something was wrong. An X-ray the next day confirmed he had two broken ribs, both of them clean breaks that didn't require surgery.

Woods said that despite the breaks, he really wanted to finish the tour. He plans to do it again, but doesn't know for sure if he'll make it.

"I knew that if I got through that day particularly, I could get through the rest of the days just because of the way fractures work. It's that first day after that's typically the worst," he said.

3500 km later, the Ottawa cyclist pulled into Paris on Sunday finishing in 32nd place. He runs through some of the highs and lows of his Tour de France debut. 8:42

Staying on track mentally 

During the tense moments of a race, Woods said he gives the ride his undivided attention.  

"When the race is really on, and you're fighting for position and there's a lot on the line, you do get this kind of tunnel vision and this singular focus on just the race. It's a moment where you feel purposeful." 

But there are some moments of boredom.

"[When] you're just riding along at an easy pace in the middle of France, your mind is wandering all over the place," he said.

"For me, it's actually a big challenge to maintain that focus for a long period of time because it's often when you lose the focus that you end up crashing and making mistakes." 

After crashing in Stage 11 of the race and breaking two ribs, Woods powered through the pain. (David Ramos/Getty Images)

Family loss part of what drives him

Last year, Woods's wife gave birth to their stillborn child, Hunter, in Ottawa, and Woods said thinking of him has helped push him forward.

"Losing him was probably the hardest moment of my life and I think of him every day," he said. "I found that cycling was this really cathartic activity that kind of helped me exorcise my demons after losing him and dealing with my grief.

"He enabled me to get these big results, and those results have given me the confidence to continue riding well this season. He's somebody that I'll always think of."

'Not surprised' 

Nick Vipond, Woods's former cycling coach, told CBC's All in a Day that Woods has dreamed big since his early days. 

"I could see it coming," he said about Woods going to the Tour de France. "But, it's amazing to see it here today."

Nick Vipond (left), Michael Woods's former cycling coach, and Mike Norton, a cycling enthusiast, said they're not surprised by the athlete's performance at the Tour de France. (Ryan Tumilty/CBC )

Vipond said he's not surprised that Woods placed where he did. 

"Mike can do what he puts his mind to, and Mike is going to do it. We've seen this over and over in his cycling career. So it's pretty amazing," he said. "The highs of that first week of sitting in the top 10 at the tour was incredible." 

Mike Norton, a cycling enthusiast, said it's exciting to see an Ottawa native compete at such a high level.

"I don't think I can have a better role model," he said.

With files from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning

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