Canadian Michael Woods finishes third in Fleche Wallonne classic race

HUY, Belgium — Canadian Michael Woods added to his cycling resume with a third-place finish Wednesday at the Fleche Wallonne one-day classic.

The 33-year-old from Ottawa was runner-up in the 2018 Liege-Bastogne-Liege, another leg of the three-race Ardennes classics series.

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Swiss rider Marc Hirschi won Wednesday, going clear in the last 100 metres to win comfortably ahead of France's Benoit Cosnefroy.

The 200-kilometre route included more than 3,300 metres of elevation. The Mur de Huy finish is short — 1.3 kilometres — but has a punishing gradient maxing out at 20 per cent.

"It's just brutal," Hirschi said of the steep ride to the top. "You have to be strong in the head to get through the pain."

Hugo Houle of Sainte-Perpetue, Que., was 20th, while Montreal's James Piccoli was 65th.

Normally scheduled in the spring, the Ardennes classics were pushed back to September because of the pandemic that brought the cycling season to a halt for several months.

The third leg of the Ardennes, the Amstel Gold Race scheduled for Oct. 10, has been cancelled.

Woods' accomplishments also include a victory in the 2019 Milano-Torino one-day race, a stage win at the 2018 Spanish Vuelta and a bronze medal in the road race at the 2018 world championships.

Currently riding for the EF Pro Cycling team, Woods will move over to the Team Israel Start-Up Nation next year.

Hirschi added his first win in a classic to his bronze medal from Sunday's world championships road race on Sunday and his impressive Tour de France. There, the 22-year-old won a stage, was a regular threat in breakaways and won the prize as the most combative rider overall in the three-week tour.

In the women's race earlier, world champion Anna van der Breggen won for the sixth straight time.

Four days after claiming the world champion's rainbow jersey, van der Breggen was able to follow an attack from fellow Dutch rider Demi Vollering on the steep climb to the finish. Vollering ran out of gas in the final metres and Van der Breggen overpowered Denmark's Cecilie Uttrup-Ludwig to prevail in the sprint.

Vollering completed the podium.

"I think it was the closest of every year. It means a lot," said Van der Breggen. "This finale is incredibly hard, winning six times is crazy."

Van der Breggen, who also claimed gold in the road race at the 2016 Rio Olympics, secured a rare double at the world championships last week, winning both the road race and the time trial.

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With files from The Canadian Press

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