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How heartbreak motivated Canadian cyclist Mike Woods to the Tour de France

Mike Woods was 25 years previous when he determined, after years as a aggressive runner, to present skilled biking a shot. His girlfriend requested him, Do you suppose you’ll ever make it to the Tour de France?

His response: “Yeah, probably.”

Seven years later, these expectations have grow to be actuality. Woods is one among two Canadians competing within the Tour de France, which kicks off in Belgium on Saturday.

The 32-year-old athlete spoke with CTVNews.ca on Friday from Brussels about how he went from being an outsider to one of many world’s greatest cyclists, his lingering emotions of being an “imposter,” and the way the heartbreaking lack of his unborn son final yr modified the best way he sees the whole lot.

Woods grew up in Ottawa, the place he performed hockey and, in highschool, started taking monitor and discipline critically. He was a proficient runner and nonetheless holds the file for operating the quickest mile on Canadian soil by a Canadian.

However issues took a flip for the more serious in school. Woods suffered a number of stress fractures linked to over-training and poor food plan, and people accidents finally compelled him to surrender the game utterly.

After hitting a low level, Woods began biking for stress aid and to assist his restoration. However he shortly fell in love with the game, and determined — halfway by means of his twenties — to go professional.

“I was completely ignorant to how hard it would be. When I first started cycling I knew nothing about cycling. I assumed that because I was a good runner, those skills would directly translate to cycling,” he stated.

“Ultimately I was able to do this, but now, reflecting back on how far I had to go to get here and knowing what I know now, there is no way I would’ve tried to make the Tour from the state I was in at the time.”

Woods caught to his rigorous coaching schedule, and it didn’t take lengthy earlier than it paid off. He established himself as a proficient “climber” — a bike owner significantly expert on hills and mountains. In 2015, he captured his first skilled win on the Tour of Utah when he gained the fifth stage of the race.

Final September, Woods got here third on the street race world championships in Austria, changing into the primary Canadian bike owner to succeed in a street race podium in 34 years.

Woods speaks confidently about his file on the street and is frank concerning the exhausting work it took to get there. However generally, when he thinks about how lengthy he’s been biking in comparison with his rivals, he feels a pang of imposter syndrome.

“And so even though now I feel comfortable within the group, comfortable within the peloton, and experienced, I still know that I’m lacking that base of knowledge that you can only really develop when you’re in your very formative years. And because of that, I still feel like a bit of an outsider.”

OVERCOMING PERSONAL LOSS

However the greatest problem of Woods’ life got here final yr, on June 5, when his unborn son Hunter died at 37 weeks previous. The loss made Woods rethink his function in sports activities.

“As athletes in particular, you live such a selfish lifestyle and I think my wife and I were both ready to live for something other than ourselves. We had that for a very, very brief moment and to have it taken away was really, really tough. It’s something that we still struggle with. We still have a good cry every once in a while.”

A few months after Hunter’s loss of life, Woods competed on the Vuelta, a race in Spain. Within the gruelling last moments of the race’s 17th stage, Woods’ coach informed him to give attention to his household. Woods gained the stage and later devoted the victory to his son.

Woods stated that Hunter might be on his thoughts all through the Tour de France.

“Certainly. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of Hunter and that time that my wife and I went through,” he stated.

On a bigger scale, Woods stated that dropping his son pushed him to get essentially the most out of life – and to combat even more durable to make it to the Tour de France.

“After he passed away, my wife and I made a commitment to each other to really try and think about how best we can honour him and we felt the best way to honour him would be to just live our lives to the fullest. He never had a chance to live,” he stated.

“We’ve been living an incredible life this last year and a part of that for me is excelling on the bike and making the most of this crazy life that I live. The Tour is certainly an extension of that.”

THE SECRET TO SUCCESS

Woods will don a bright-pink package Saturday as he races alongside seven different teammates, together with Colombia’s Rigoberto Uran, who got here second within the Tour de France in 2017, and American Tejay Van Garderen, who not too long ago completed second on the Criterium du Dauphine.

In his wildest desires, Woods hopes that one among his teammates will win the race, and that he can seize a stage win or two alongside the best way.

“I’m hoping to support them throughout the race but also target individual stages,” he stated.

All of the whereas, Woods stated he’s basking within the pleasure of competing on this planet’s most celebrated bike race. He described his mindset going into Saturday as “just pretty relaxed.”

As for the key to his later-in-life success, Woods provided a chunk of recommendation for anybody contemplating pursuing a brand new aim.

“It doesn’t matter what discipline, whether that’s something at work or school or another sport, I think the key to success isn’t necessarily seeking success, but finding what you enjoy about the pursuit of that success and pursuing that.”

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