Ottawa’s Mike Woods earns King of the Mountain honours at Tour de France

Canadian Michael Woods survived a crash at the Tour de France on Saturday to claim the polka dot jersey as leader of the King of the Mountains classification.

Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar heads into the final week of the race with a commanding advantage to retain cycling’s elite title after he was unchallenged on the 14th stage won by Dutch rider Bauke Mollema.

Woods finished fifth on the 183.7-kilometre stage and sits 26th in the overall classification. But the 34-year-old from Ottawa, with 54 points, moved past Colombian Nairo Quintana in the mountain classification.

Woods joined a late breakaway, collecting points along the way to earn his Israel Start-Up Nation team its first ever Tour de France jersey.

“This is a dream come true,” said Woods, who crashed on a descent but found his way back to the front group for the final climb of the day.

Woods collected a point atop the top of Cote de Galinagues to take the King of the Mountain lead. He is the second Canadian to wear the polka dot jersey, following Alex Stieda in 1986.

Pogacar’s UAE Team Emirates stayed comfortable at or near the front of the peloton through the trek from Carcassonne to Quillan in southern France, content to let the breakaway group dispute the stage victory.

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Pogacar has little trouble protecting lead

The Slovenian holds a four-minute lead over Guillaume Martin. The French rider, who was in the breakaway group, moved from ninth overall to second. Rigoberto Uran, Jonas Vingegaard and Richard Carapaz are all more than five minutes off Pogacar’s pace.

Pogacar has kept the yellow jersey since he took control of the race on Stage 8 in the Alps. With 2020 runner-up Primoz Roglic and other potential contenders out of the race, Pogacar has had little trouble protecting his advantage in the general classification over the past week.

Mollema, a rider for Trek, claimed his second career stage victory at the Tour when he broke away on the way down from the fourth of the day’s five climbs. Mollema’s other Tour stage win was in 2017.

Mollema set off on the windy descent through sheer gorges from the Cote de Galinagues. He quickly powered away to build an insurmountable lead and rode all alone the final 42 kilometres up and down the category-two Col de Saint-Louis.

With no opponent in sight when he crossed the line in just over four hours, Mollema had time to raise his arms and soak up the applause. Patrick Konrad edged Sergio Higuita to finish second, over a minute behind.

“I was feeling good, so I thought let’s go from far,” Mollema said. “I had the confidence I could ride alone and keep going for a long time. Normally I can pace myself well. When I got to the top of the last climb with 50 seconds, I knew I could make it.”

On Sunday, the riders hit the Pyrenees with a 191 km ride starting in Ceret and finishing in the tiny mountain-bound nation of Andorra. The trek includes three category-one climbs. After a rest on Monday, the peloton will face three more days in the hills and mountains near the Spanish frontier.

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