The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics has been a blessing in disguise for Canadian road cycling star Mike Woods.
The 33-year-old Ottawa native is back on his bike healthy again after breaking his femur (thigh bone) in a crash mid-March, which put his dream of competing in a second Olympics in doubt.
Now with a year reprieve and time to recover, Woods was one of 17 athletes named to the road and track cycling team for rescheduled Tokyo Games next summer.
Woods headlines the largest-ever Canadian contingent, along with Rio 2016 bronze medallists Allison Beveridge, Jasmin Duehring and Georgia Simmerling of the women's Team Pursuit squad and several up-and-coming riders, including Pan Am Games gold medallist Kelsey Mitchell (Sprint, Keirin).
The cross-country mountain bike and BMX racing teams will be selected by June 2021.
Woods, a former elite runner (he still holds fastest mile run on Canadian soil by a Canadian), has endured his share of injuries over the years, whether it was stress fractures that hampered his running career, or his time on the bike, which has included breaking his hand in three places a few weeks before Rio 2016 or his two broken ribs at last year's Tour de France.
But this one was the most painful he has ever endured.
"It was also one of the most painful things mentally because when I looked at my leg, I knew it was bad," Woods said from Siena, Italy, where he is gearing up to re-start with the Strade Bianche, the first WorldTour race of the season this Saturday.
"My big goals for 2020 were the Olympics, the world championships and the Tour and in that moment, all three of them looked to be in jeopardy."
Once the Olympic postponement happened and he wasn't time crunched to recover, Woods, the second Canadian to win a Grand Tour stage, used his time off to rehab and recharge. He also had the chance to spend time with his wife, Elly, and their daughter Max (Maxine), who was born in late January. Traditionally pro cyclists can spend several weeks to several months on the road away from their families.
"I got this rare opportunity to watch her develop, to go from a pooping-and-eating machine to rolling around, making adorable noises and grabbing my face all the time," he said. "It's lovely to watch that development and create that attachment with her.
"It's been one of the silver linings, for sure."
He showed he was back and stronger than ever on July 18 with a Stage 5 victory in the virtual Tour de France. He's now focusing on his first 'live' race of the season, though don't expect him to go full throttle.
"The first race of the year is always a dog fight. It's always wild, especially given this is an iconic race in Italy, on gravel, lots of dust, lots of fighting for position. It'll be quite dangerous," he said, noting that this five-month layoff has cyclists going a bit stir-crazy.
"I think I'm just going to keep my emotions in check and play things safe for my first race of the year."
Full roster announced by McBean, Harnett
Here is the full list of athletes, announced by Canadian Olympic chef de mission Marnie McBean and three-time Olympic cycling medallist Curt Harnett:
Women's Track Endurance
Allison Beveridge (Calgary, Alta.) – Team Pursuit, Omnium
Ariane Bonhomme (Gatineau, Que.) – Team Pursuit
Jasmin Duehring (Coquitlam, B.C.) – Team Pursuit
Annie Foreman-Mackey (Kingston, Ont.) – Team Pursuit
Georgia Simmerling (Vancouver, B.C.) – Team Pursuit
Men's Track Endurance
Vincent de Haître (Cumberland, Ont.) – Team Pursuit
Michael Foley (Milton, Ont.) – Team Pursuit, Madison
Derek Gee (Osgoode, Ont.) – Team Pursuit, Madison
Jay Lamoureux (Victoria, B.C.) – Team Pursuit
Adam Jamieson (Horseshoe Valley, Ont.) – Non-travelling alternate
Lauriane Genest (Lévis, Que.) – Sprint, Keirin
Kelsey Mitchell (Sherwood Park, Alta.) – Sprint, Keirin
Sarah Orban (Calgary, Alta.) – Non-travelling alternate
Hugo Barrette (Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Que.) – Sprint, Keirin
Nick Wammes (Bothwell, Ont.) – Sprint, Keirin
Karol-Ann Canuel (Amos, Que.) – Road Race, Time Trial
Leah Kirchmann (Winnipeg, Man.) – Road Race, Time Trial
Alison Jackson (Vermilion, Alta.) – Non-travelling alternate
Sara Poidevin (Canmore, Alta.) – Non-travelling alternate
Hugo Houle (Ste-Perpétue, Que.) – Road Race, Time Trial
Mike Woods (Ottawa, Ont.) – Road Race
*A third and final male athlete will be announced next year based on performances up until May