It is easy to overlook Michael Woods, even while clad in his team’s bright ensemble. He looked nothing extraordinary.
But what he had to go thought to reach the top is nothing sort of usual.
It was 2018, and Woods just reached Stage 17 of the Vuelta a Espana. It was brute stage biking through the mountainous Basque country thick with fog and finishing in a rough concrete track with steep roads and ramps, the kind that was already difficult to walk, much more to cycle on. It was like torture in slow motion for the cyclists.
There was only one kilometer remaining, and Wood was among the four on the head of the race. When distance shortened to 600 meters, the Belgian cyclist Dylan Teuns pounced on, and Woods joined him.
Because of the thick fog, Woods thought there was only 150 meters ahead. When he realized what was going on, Woods started to die. The image of Woods during those final moments in the race looks very unreal.
During those crucial moments, Woods heard Juan Manuel Garate, his sports director, in the radio cheering him on and telling him to do it for his family.
During the race, Woods was at the peak of his physical shape for he has trained well the whole year. But only his friends and family know that he was crumbling inside. Months before the race, Hunter, his unborn son, died.
Hunter was their first child, and Woods and his wife were very excited that they were having a boy. The couple was devastated at the news of their unborn son’s death during her wife’s final check-up at 37 weeks. It was especially difficult for Woods to watch his wife handle the death of their son and the post-pregnancy symptoms.
Woods then immersed himself in cycling and training because he wanted to do something special for their son.
During the race, Woods rode like a mad man. Several times he almost quit. It took him a minute to finish the last 200 meters, and when he crossed the finish line, he seemed not to comprehend what was happening. When it finally understood what was happening, he cried for a while and cried more for days after that.
Growing up, Woods loved ice hockey and was clueless about cycling. When he was in his teens, he was discourage to play ice hockey because of his physique, so he concentrated on running. By the end of high school, Woods had already surpassed national records. But his injuries were so bad that at 24 he was forced to quit running. He was left with nothing.
He started borrowing his father’s bike to keep himself in shape and then get back to running, but he again broke his foot t a local race. His girlfriend then hinted that he may want to try his luck at cycling.
He went through a huge transition, but Wood has a good background and was a fast learner. He transitioned fast, but the road to success was not smooth. He had several setbacks until he was taken in by the Cannondale-Drapac team. Since then, his career went uphill.
Woods believes he still has much to learn, that’s why he makes sure to challenge himself every day.