As It Happens

Canadian Michael Woods opens up about wild weather and his broken ribs at Tour de France

Michael Woods' first Tour de France has been extremely eventful.

Race shuts down 19th stage over mudslide, hailstorm

Canadian cyclist Michael Woods is competing in the Tour de France, which was temporarily shut down after a hailstorm and mudslide. (Ashely Gruber, Jered Gruber/Gruber Images, Thibault Camus/The Associated Press)


With mudslides, hailstorms and broken bones, Michael Woods' first Tour de France has been extremely eventful. 

Last week, the 32-year-old from Ottawa suffered a crash that left him with two broken ribs. But he got back in the saddle — only to have Friday's Stage 19 stopped short after a violent hailstorm triggered a mudslide, making the roads too dangerous. 

Woods, who is currently in Tignes, France, getting ready for the rest of the race, spoke with As It Happens guest host Megan Williams about his experience. 

Here is part of their conversation. 

Where were you when you heard the race was cancelled? 

I was just coming down this descent and another rider came up to me and said, "Stage has been cancelled. Stage has being cancelled." 

I was like, "What?" 

It was a weird experience. It was surreal. It almost felt like I was getting to play hooky or something.

The 126.5-km Stage 19 from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Tignes, with a general view of the broadcast at the finish area, after the race was stopped. (Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters)

When you were riding up the mountain, what was the weather like? 

Hot and humid ... but when we came down the other side, it just plummeted, the temperature.

Was it raining? 

Once we found out it was cancelled, I did see that rain in the distance but nothing significant and nothing that really warranted cancelling the stage. 

But then when I arrived to our team car ... people are posting images on Twitter and we have the race-based coverage on TV and ... we saw images of these mudslides and ice on the road up ahead and realized it was the right call to cancel the stage. 

You got the news that the race was going to be cancelled before you saw how bad it was?

I thought it was some French conspiracy because Julian Alaphilippe, an athlete who is wearing the yellow jersey at the moment, he'd just been dropped and was losing time and so if the stage continued, it looked like he'd lose his jersey.

But I was wrong. Once I saw those images I was like, OK, this is the right call to cancel it. 

[Editor's note: Julian Alaphilippe lost his yellow jersey on Friday, which means he is no longer leading the race.] 

What do you think would have happened if they hadn't made such a quick call? 

Riders are a bit like lemmings. We're crazy. We'll run off a cliff if someone is in front of us. So we probably would have just barrelled into this mudslide and there would have been bodies everywhere and felt pretty stupid afterward.

I guess as Canadians, you're used to a little more weather than a lot of the other riders.

Whenever it gets cold, everyone always thinks I'm going to be this hard Canuck, but I get a bit soft sometimes too. 

I have a base out of Spain and Andorra. And the weather's a lot better there than it is back home in Ottawa. Definitely been on some pretty miserably cold rides in Ottawa and up in the Gatineau Park. 

Woods is a rookie at cycling's greatest race at the ripe age of 32. (Christophe Ena/The Associated Press)

So you had a really great day [Thursday]. You finished seventh in Stage 18 and climbed to 36 in the overall classification. What went right for you at that stage? 

I've had a pretty tough race this tour. I came into it with high hopes and I was sitting at the top 10 in the general classification,  but then had a number of injuries, a number of crashes. 

I didn't have ... great luck and ended up breaking my ribs.

You're riding with two broken ribs right now? 

Yeah, at the moment I am.

Wow. What does that feel like? 

Initially, it wasn't very pleasant, that's for sure. Breathing was really difficult. And, yeah, just standing and pushing the pedals is hard.

[Thursday] was the first day where I start feeling good again and managed to kind of infiltrate the breakaway and attack and I went to try to win but, unfortunately, I just wasn't the strongest guy of the day. 

I'm happy with how the race is going now, but definitely been facing some obstacles.

Woods rides during the 13th stage of the Tour de France. (Thibault Camus/The Associated Press)

This is your first Tour de France. What has it been like for you overall? 

It's been an incredible experience. It's been this amazing high.

How does it feel to be entering the Tour de France at … 32? 

I think it's really special.

I find as I've aged, I don't get as many opportunities to be trying new things.

This is my first one, but this could also be my last one, so I'm just enjoying every moment. That's also one of the reasons why I continue to race ... with the broken ribs.

I may not have another opportunity to do this. 

Written by Sarah Jackson with files from The Associated Press. Produced by Chloe Shantz-Hilkes. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 


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