(Nistos) Defending champion Michael Woods won the third stage of the Route d’Occitanie on Saturday, taking the lead in the general classification with one stage to go.

The 36-year-old Ottawa runner is 10 seconds ahead of Spaniard Cristián Rodríguez, heading into Sunday.

The last route will be one of 164.7 kilometers, in the south of France.

“It’s already been a great race for me,” Woods said. It’s a good step in the right direction and it makes me very excited for the Tour de France (July 1-23). »

The Canadian had a lot of help on Saturday.

His Israel-Premier Tech team set the pace with Chris Froome leading the pack, catching up with the remaining riders of the morning break, before the final climb.

Stevie Williams took over and reduced the group considerably, before teammate Domenico Pozzovivo picked up the pace even more.

Woods launched several attacks, with only Rodríguez able to stay close. Woods then made a final charge to finish first, atop Nistos Cap Nestes.

“I’m really happy,” Woods said. The teamwork was exceptional. Stevie Williams was simply amazing. I think he gave everything in honor of his friend Gino Mäder. It was really inspiring. The whole team rode very well. I’m really proud to take the leader’s jersey. »

Mäder died Friday at the Tour de Suisse, a day after a fall where he fell into a ravine. The Swiss rider was 26 years old.