Michael Woods: Letting the ink dry

When I was 14, while sitting in my math class it dawned on me that I wasn’t going to make the NHL. For the better part of 10 years I just assumed that playing left-wing for the Maple Leafs (I am now a reformed Senators fan) was my destiny. Being 5’6″ and 150lbs, and a third liner on the weakest team in the eastern Ontario region, it did not take the guy Jonah Hill played in Moneyball to figure out I was not on the trajectory to be playing opposite Mats Sundin in the big leagues. However, being the dreamer that I am, it took me a lot longer than it should have, to realise that professional hockey was not going to be in my future.

I remember even a year earlier, my english teacher, Mr. Dewar (he’s now a member of Canadian parliament), asked me after I turned in an essay well past its due date; “what’s more important Mike; hockey or school?” The answer to both of us was blatantly obvious; I responded “hockey.”

To realise, at 14, what had been my plan for the better part of 10 years, was not happening, was pretty devastating. A week later, I joined my high school track team, and decided, if it was not going to be hockey, I was going to be a pro-runner. In the span of two years, I grew three inches, and lost 15 pounds, and by grade 12, making a living as an athlete, looked more like destiny than a possibility.


The concept of destiny, however, is bullshit. If somebody tells you that you’re destined for something, then they don’t know what they’re talking about. I was told by many people that I was destined to make money in running, and to do great things in that sport, but that, like my hockey career, never happened. So, when I started riding a bike, and even when people started to tell me that I had a shot at becoming a professional cyclist, my previous endeavours taught me, despite my foolish ambition, to at least be skeptical.

This time, it wasn’t until the ink had dried, on the contract sitting in front of me, sent from Slipstream Sports, that I could finally accept that I would be riding in the WorldTour for 2016.

Signing with Cannondale-Garmin for 2016 ushered in the final part of my 2015 season, and also marked a major shift in my performance. To put it plainly, at my final few races of the season, I wasn’t that good. For the last four years, I have been chasing after one singular goal; to make it to a WorldTour team. I broke a ton of bones, lost quarts of blood, sweated more that a fat man on a StairMaster, starved myself like Christian Bale did for the Machinist, and shed more tears than a pre-teen at a Bieber concert in pursuit of said goal. After winning a stage at Tour of Utah and taking yellow, winning a race in Europe, and signing with Garmin, I basically achieved everything I had set out to do in 2015, so to reassess and rekindle my motivation after that ink had dried, was, honestly, a struggle.

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