Woods traveled back home from Europe, where he recently won both the XCO and XCC races in the Under-23 category at the last round of the UCI World Cup series in Val di Sole, Italy. Though the 22-year-old is still eligible for U23 racing, he chose to race the elite class for the Canadian nationals.
“Since returning home from a perfect weekend in Val di Sole, I have been building toward my biggest goal of the year, the MTB World Championships,” Woods said. “Having our Canadian national championships right in the middle of my training camp, I had to choose whether or not it would fit into my training. After a couple solid weeks of training, I decided nationals was something I wanted to do and could pull off. I requested to get upgraded to the elite category as I felt like I needed a hard test before worlds.”
Riding his Anthem Advanced Pro 29 race bike and wearing his Giant Rev Pro helmet and Charge Pro shoes, Woods faced two very different tests in Nova Scotia. The short track took place on a fast, flat course. “I rode a perfect race and managed to defend my elite XCC title,” he said.
Three days later, the XCO race was affected by heavy rain. “The conditions became treacherous and slippery,” Woods said. “A fast start-finish area and a pavement road section made it a difficult choice for tires, but I ended up going with the Maxxis Severe mud tire. After a fast start I entered the singletrack first and instantly knew I made the right decision as the gap behind me opened up.”
Woods turned up the pace on the second lap to open up a 30-second lead. From there, he never looked back. “I fought hard to keep that gap lap after lap,” he said. “It was a very hard race and I’m proud to come out of nationals with both elite titles.”
Silver and Bronze for Schuermans
While Woods was in Canada, his teammate Jens Schuermans was back home in Belgium to defend his own national title on his Anthem Advanced Pro 29. The six-time national champion had to battle an untimely illness but still managed to score two medals: third in the short track and second in the XC.
“To prepare for the upcoming world championships the best way possible, I did a three-week altitude camp just before the national championships here in Belgium,” Schuermans said. “But unfortunately I caught a virus my last day of altitude. The short track became a real struggle to still finish third.”
Schuermans was starting to recover for the XCO race a few days later but still wasn’t 100 percent. “The day of the cross-country I felt the worst part was behind me but once the race got underway I could still feel the lingering effects,” he said. “For 30 minutes I was able to keep the win in sight but my body also told me miracles don’t happen in our sport. Second place isn’t what I came for, but it was the best possible result on the day for me.”
Schuermans, Woods and the rest of the Giant Factory Off-Road Team XC racers now turn their attention to the upcoming UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, August 9-12 in Glasgow, Scotland.