Paddy Bevin finished 7th in a show of force and determination
Woods did not start following his crash
Piccoli crashed minutes into the stage and abandoned
The team showed its true spirit
Put yourself in their bibs for a minute. The six riders are assembled in the Israel Start-Up Nation team bus in Vitoria, the Basque Country town hosting the 4th stage, near the start line.
They have just learned that their leader, Mike Woods, will not start following his crash the day before, leaving him with some deep bruises in his left hand and shoulders.
So, what now? Another mountain stage was awaiting and, indeed, their chances looked dim.
But ISN Sports Director Oscar Guerrero was already reacting. He had thought of a new plan the night before. “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves and just wait till the end of the race in 3 days,” he told his riders. “Mike is gone. But you are here!”
At the center of the revised plan was a new rider: Patrick “Paddy” Bevin. The man from New Zealand is a TT specialist (7th in the first stage), but his power wattage is so impressive that he can climb pretty well.
Oscar was betting on that, saying how good he was the previous day, helping Woods in the last climb.
Minutes into the race, it appeared that the bad luck was still haunting us when Canadian James Piccoli crashed on the first descent and had to abandon. (Thankfully, only with some bruises but nothing broken.)
But the guys kept on. Ben Hermans was on his game and was critical in getting Bevin well-positioned at the foot of the last climb.
Ben: “It was a big hurt losing Mike. But we had only one option: to fight for a good stage result with our strongest rider, which is Bevin, here. I felt good all day and happy that I could help our solid Paddy Bevin.”
And Bevin showed precisely why we trusted him. In the last climb, although far from being a climber like the big guns fighting it out there, he stuck to the bunch. When he was dropped, he still refused to give up and continued with a small group behind, then chased the yellow jersey group successfully on the descent. When he got to them, he almost immediately escaped, ultimately finishing 7th (!) – the first rider to arrive behind a small six-rider group that beat the favorites to the punch.
Paddy: “Today was an incredibly tough stage; I was dropped on the climb of Erlaitz but fought my way back to the main group of favorites across the top and on the descent. With a group up the road, I tried to attack; ultimately, we were caught on the line, but 7th on a stage as hard as that is a very good result.”
Agreed. Tomorrow we will go for it again. We will “only” have five riders, but with a #NeverGiveUp attitude, sometimes it’s more than enough.
The last word goes to Mike Woods: “[I’m] pretty disappointed to have to abandon the race. I was on really good form and still am, but I have to take a look at the bigger picture. My big goals are the Ardennes and I don’t want to make things worse. My teammates rode so well yesterday and really set me up for a great result and I really wanted to finish off for them but just had some bad luck. That’s bike racing sometimes, but I’ll be back.”