Canadian cyclist Mike Woods is targeting the ochre jersey at the Tour Down Under this week. Picture: Tim de Waele (Getty).
Canadian cyclist Mike Woods is targeting the ochre jersey at the Tour Down Under this week. Picture: Tim de Waele (Getty).

Running man Porte’s biggest threat

CANADIAN former pro runner Mike Woods has been dubbed the biggest threat to Australian star and Willunga king Richie Porte winning his second Tour Down Under which starts in North Adelaide.

Woods, who was third in last year's world championships on a hilly course in Austria and finished fifth at his TDU debut two years ago, will lead a strong EF Education First team that has been training in the Australian heat for the past two weeks.

In his first exclusive column for The Advertiser today, 2015 TDU winner Rohan Dennis said Woods was the man most likely to challenge Porte for the ochre jersey this week.

"There are two guys to watch - Richie obviously and Mike Woods," Dennis said.

"Mike looks like he's in good form, he always looks pretty lean but I believe he's been looking to start the season off on a high.

"No doubt he's been training pretty hard and we saw what he could do at the world championships last year in Innsbruck coming third and that was a very steep climb - steeper than the Corkscrew or Willunga, so I think he's going to be right up there.

"And Richie for obvious reasons. He's won Willunga the last five years and he's always going to be up there. One day one of us might beat him but we have to hope for the best."

Woods turned pro in 2016 after a successful middle distance running career. As well as his world championship podium he has finished seventh overall in the Vuelta a Espana and second in Liege-Bastogne-Liege in the past two seasons.

The 32-year-old said he was excited about the Corkscrew stage on Friday and taking on Porte on Willunga on Sunday.

"I came third in it (Corkscrew stage) in 2016, it wasn't there in 2017 when I did it again, but it's a climb that favours me," Woods said.

"It's steep and when it's steep the pace is slower and I can stand and pedal, and when I'm standing I effectively run on the bike. That's my forte, running on the bike.

"And Willunga, it's his jam, it's Richie-Porte certified, he's won it every year for the last few years now.

"It's a climb that suits him so well, so that will be the big challenge, not just for me, but anyone going for the general classification."

 

Woods, who finished third in the world championships last year, will be supported by a strong EF Education First team in Adelaide. Picture: Jojo Harper
Woods, who finished third in the world championships last year, will be supported by a strong EF Education First team in Adelaide. Picture: Jojo Harper

Woods will be supported by Australian teammates Lachlan Morton, Mitch Docker and neo pro James Whelan as well as internationals Dan McCleay, Tom Scully and Alberto Bettiol, and said being able to perform in the heat would be crucial to the race.

"This is my third time of doing it (TDU) and what it means is that you have to start putting in some pretty big miles, in mid to late November," Woods said.

"If I'm adapted to it (heat) then I'm fine, but if I'm not then I feel like I'm melting. I just feel like I want to rip my helmet off and take off all my clothes. You try and fight it which only makes it worse."

With the temperature expected to nudge 40C and 41C the next two days, race organisers have shortened the first two stages of the race.

The circuit finish to Stage 1 from North Adelaide to Port Adelaide has been removed amid fears high winds could disrupt the general classification, while Stage 2 from Norwood to Angaston has been cut by 26.9km and will be 122.1km long.

reece.homfray@news.com.au

News Corp Australia


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