Canada's Woods wins stage five of virtual Tour de France

(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.

FILE PHOTO: Cycling - Tour de France - The 27.5-km Stage 13 Individual Time Trial from Pau to Pau - July 19, 2019 - EF Education First rider Michael Woods of Canada in action. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

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