(Reuters) – Canada’s Michael Woods won stage five of the men’s virtual Tour de France on Saturday after turning in a strong performance on Mont Ventoux to finish ahead of NTT Pro Cycling duo Domenico Pozzovivo and Louis Meintjes.
The virtual race is being held on the popular Zwift training platform after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of the actual annual July race until the end of August.
EF Pro Cycling’s Woods, who broke his leg in a crash during Paris-Nice in March, dominated from the start and won the 22 km simulation in 46 minutes, three seconds — 18 seconds ahead of Pozzovivo.
“This is a big event for us. Zwift is a great platform. We wanted to get a win and we finally got one,” Woods said.
“Both Pozzovivo and Meintjes are super strong riders. Normally in a race you can look them in the eye and see how they’re doing… I just kept hoping they’d crack a lot earlier than they did. Fortunately, I was able to keep it going.”
Woods turned up the intensity over the final seven km, dropping Meintjes with four km to go and speeding away from Pozzovivo 3-1/2 km from the finish.
“I think switch racing is a lot more sustained effort,” Woods added. “I think that’s why I have so much success at it. It’s a lot more similar to running.”
NTT are still in the overall lead ahead of Sunday’s final stage on the Champs-Elysees.
In the women’s race, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio of the CCC Team won in 57 minutes and 10 seconds after pulling away from Sarah Gigante of Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank in the final two km.
Gigante finished 23 seconds off the pace while her American team mate Lauren Stephens came third.
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)