Home Sport How Michael Woods Carved an Unexpected Cycling Career Path - Sportsnet.ca

How Michael Woods Carved an Unexpected Cycling Career Path – Sportsnet.ca

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We started with what seemed like a story of a fish, albeit not about one that ran away, but rather a story they couldn’t get away with: Cycling coach Paulo Saldanha heard some veteran riders of the Montreal-based SpiderTech team talk about this guy who just came out of nowhere in a race in Ottawa, a local that they didn’t know, and didn’t graduate from the cycling foundation classes. According to their accounts, Saldanha recalls, this unknown “didn’t know how to ride, was quite rough and was on an unsuitable bike.” At a glance, this was a hobbyist, veteran racers expecting recreational racers to land after a few short minutes. Not how it went, they told Saldanha. Late in the race, long, long, long after they should have dropped him, he was there, on their rear wheels, clinging to dear life. It was as improbable as a boxercise exercise warrior winning rounds from a pro, or a player from a lunchtime mini-game in a Y dropping a hook at an NBA vet, and the three-handed player staying with the PGA pro until nine. The guy had no business being there. If he does, they’ll know him, right?

Understandably, Saldanha had his doubts, but nonetheless invited the enigmatic racer, Michael Woods, to come to a practice for the SpiderTech riders in Sutton, Kew, at a track with a bunch of tough climbs. He put the riders in 30-second intervals in three minutes, and Woods was another among them. If the newcomer remained within sight of the knight in front of him, it would be a small victory; If anyone closes or overruns, that’s great. One by one, though, Woods staggered into each of the riders, passing the leader at the top of the last hill, an uphill climb. “Mike knew nothing of riding and had poor techniques and equipment that were inferior to what the others did,” Seldanha says. “More than his conditioning and physical ability, he had this stubborn determination. He was completely spent at the end of the exercise, but he wouldn’t calm down.”

The question remained: Who was this five-foot-nine, 135-pound ginger-haired sliver who had only begun riding a bike for anything more than occasional transportation two years ago? He might have been a raw but talented teenager, but Woods wasn’t a kid – he was actually 27 years old. It turns out that he was once considered a talent for generations, and the next big thing, it’s not just in cycling. When he was 18, he was a phenomenon on the track, running under four minutes, and it seemed like a sure bet to win NCAA titles and compete for international titles. Having had his last race two years ago, he had gotten used to cycling as a recreation, happily unaware that he was remaking himself once again in elite sports competition, and so much more.


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