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Canada's Mike Woods just missed out on an Olympic cycling medal. He's already looking to Paris

Cyclist Mike Woods will be 37 years old in 2024. But on Saturday, after finishing just out of the medals in the Olympic road race, he said he intends to compete at the Paris Summer Games

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Cyclist Mike Woods will be 37 years old in 2024. But on Saturday, after finishing just out of the medals in the Olympic road race, he said he intends to compete at the Paris Olympics.

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The Toronto-born, Ottawa-raised cyclist placed fifth out of 128 men entered in Saturday’s six-plus-hour road race on the steep, hilly roads around Mount Fuji.

“Had I medalled I’d probably say no (to an Olympic return),” Woods said a few hours afterward, on a conference call with Canadian reporters. “But I’m still hungry. The Olympics are one of those races that really motivate me as a cyclist. And if Paris is a challenging course, I think for sure I’ll keep on going until then. That’s going to be a big goal of mine.”

Woods’ fifth-place finish is the second-best Olympic result in the event by a Canadian, after Steve Bauer’s silver medal in 1984.

“I said to the guys before, if I have a good day I’ll place fifth,” Woods said. “If I have a really good day and good luck, I’ll get a medal. And if I have really, really good luck I’ll win gold. I did not get the luck that I wanted, and I didn’t have the legs.”

Over the race’s final few kilometres, Woods was among a group of eight riders vying for the silver and bronze medals, with eventual winner Richard Carapaz of Ecuador already having burst far ahead.

In cycling vernacular Woods is a climber — meaning his strength is uphill power. Few pros can match his, so when others on Saturday in that small pack behind Carapaz refused to let Woods pull away up the race’s final steep grade, he knew it’d be a tough task down the stretch to outduel the level-ground sprint specialists.

Woods’ fifth-place finish is the second best Olympic result in the event by a Canadian, after Steve Bauer’s silver medal in 1984.
Woods’ fifth-place finish is the second best Olympic result in the event by a Canadian, after Steve Bauer’s silver medal in 1984. Photo by Tim de Waele /Pool via Reuters

“Yeah, that’s pretty much it,” Woods said. “Maybe fourth, maybe fifth, and if I really got lucky, third. There was no way I was going to (win that sprint).

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“My goal was to try to get separation and attack on the final circuit, but I couldn’t. I just wasn’t strong enough to get away.”

Finishing only a split-second behind the silver and bronze medallists isn’t a bad result at all, especially considering Woods is 34, he didn’t start competing in cycling until age 25, and he would not have even competed in the event had these Summer Games not been delayed a year by the pandemic.

Indeed, in March 2020 Woods suffered a closed fracture (skin not punctured) to his right femur (upper leg) in a nasty crash in the Paris-Nice WorldTour road race. That injury would have sidelined him last summer, when the Tokyo Games were originally scheduled.

As it was, Woods fully healed in time for this year’s outdoor pro road-race season. Two weeks ago, he wore the famed best-climber’s polka dot jersey during the mountain stages of the Tour de France. After a crash banged him up with three stages to go, he opted to leave that race, which gave him a few more days to prepare for these Games.

This was Woods’ second Olympics. Five years ago in Rio he was hampered by an unhealed, thrice-broken hand and placed 55th.

As of Saturday morning, Woods’ wife Elly was expecting to deliver the couple’s second child — a boy, whom the couple plan to name Will — at any time. Their daughter Maxine was born 18 months ago.

“My wife is 4 cm dilated at the moment, and she is very close to giving birth,” Woods said Saturday. “I’m really hoping I can make it back in time. The only race I was willing to miss the birth of my child for was the Olympics.

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“The baby is coming really early. If he’s not born in the next 48 hours then they will induce on Tuesday. I’m really hoping I can get back in time. My flight out is (Sunday) evening, and I get in on Monday morning in (the European country of) Andorra, where we live.”

Elly’s mom is already there with her.

It’s been some week for Carapaz. In winning gold on Saturday, Carapaz finished the 234-kilometre race in six hours, five minutes, 26 seconds. Just six days ago he placed third in the iconic Tour de France, before hustling to Japan along with numerous other of the world’s top road cyclists.

Wout van Aert of Belgium took silver in a photo finish over Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia — both one minute, seven seconds behind Carapaz.

Two other Canadians started the race. Guillaume Boivin of Longueil, Que., placed 65t, 16:20 back, and Hugo Houle of Sainte-Perpetue, Que., finished 85th, 19:50 behind Carapaz.

JoKryk@postmedia.com

@JohnKryk

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