It has been anything but a banner two days for US-registered WorldTour team EF Education First at this year's Tour de France. A day after losing American Tejay van Garderen with a broken hand suffered during a crash early on Stage 7, Canadian Michael Woods found himself losing more than 14 minutes (14:22) following a crash with Team Ineos inside the first 15km.
This year's Herald Sun Tour stage winner hit the pavement on a right-hand turn, bringing down last year's Tour winner Geraint Thomas and Gianni Moscon in the process.
“I’m fine, but it’s just frustrating – obviously it was a key moment in the race," said Thomas. "Woods crashed and just took out Gianni and me. I got tangled in Gianni’s bike and took some time to get going. The boys did a great job. I caught up for the final bit.”
The 32-year-old Woods, who won a stage at last year's Vuelta a España, had hoped to contend for the stage but was not in contact with the bunch when Frenchmen Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) launched an attack before the second intermediate sprint.
The Frenchmen failed to bridge across to eventual stage winner Thomas De Gendt (Soudal Lotto), but Pinot and Alaphilippe managed to finish second and third respectively to move up inside the general classification top three, including Alaphilippe retaking the yellow jersey from Italian Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo).
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“I escaped with only a bit of road rash, so that was good, but although I was able to get back on the bike quickly, I had a mechanical and couldn’t correct it in time to get onto the group,” said the former middle-distance runner, who finished fifth on general classification at the Tour Down Under during his first year on the WorldTour.
“We missed the break, so that wasn’t to plan, but after that, the team rode amazingly well,” said Woods. “Tom Scully and Sebastian Langeveld rode really deep into the race, and their support was invaluable.”
Team leader Rigoberto Urán finished in the reduced bunch to jump up two spots to eighth overall (+1:38).
“I think the team did a world-class performance, really high-class cycling to do the work they did,” said sport director Charly Wegelius. “It was unfortunate what happened with Mike, and for today’s stage, it compromised what we were trying to do. I’m pretty confident that if he had stayed upright, he would have stayed with Pinot and Alaphilippe. That was the kind of move we were planning for him.”