(Nogaro, France) Michael Woods is the first Israel-Premier Tech rider to return to the bus after the eventful end of the fourth stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday afternoon.

Often tested by falls during his career, the Ottawa cyclist was happy to have stayed on his bike, not to have given up a second in the general classification and to have been able to keep as much energy as possible on this stage of 193 .5 km concluded at an average speed of 41 km/h.

“It was definitely the easiest stage I’ve ever done in my life,” he smiled. It was even easier than at the Tour de Beauce. »

Speaking in French, his second language, Woods immediately corrected the situation, remembering that the Beauce event, which presented its 35th edition last month, is contested on much more rugged terrain than the Gers countryside. .

“In Beauce, it’s harder than that, but it was amazing, a weird day. But it’s good for me. »

With the Pyrenees already looming, Woods is loaded with ambition. “The next two days will be very tough, but that’s good for me. »

Left to his own devices in the final of the Nogaro circuit, Corbin Strong finished 11th in the sprint, his best result in his fourth start in life at the Tour de France.

The New Zealander narrowly avoided Dutchman Fabio Jakobsen before making it safely to the line. His only regret: the rank he lacked to register a first top 10.

“It would have been good in a pure bunch sprint like that, but I’ve gained good experience and I’m looking forward to the sprints that will suit me a little better,” said the 15th-place finisher in Bilbao and 16th. in Bayonne.

Relieved of any collective responsibility, Hugo Houle saved himself all day at the back.

“In such an easy stage, [finishing] on a circuit like this, everyone is fresh, the sprinter teams all want to elbow, with a headwind, you’re last in the peloton and you don’t have you don’t even have to pedal. »

The 32-year-old cyclist therefore took the opportunity to socialize with his friends, including Frenchman Aurélien Parret-Peintre (AG2R).

“It was a day for chatting with the buddies, cracking jokes. We will pay double in the next two stages. It’s like that. »

A third-week stage winner in the Pyrenees last summer, Houle was wary of putting himself in a favorable position again on Wednesday or Thursday.

“There is an opportunity, you have to see,” he sensed. There is sometimes a rider placed in the general classification who slips into the breakaway and it screws everything up. There may be a move to play tomorrow, but it’s not the most interesting thing yet, I think. »

With the pout he made as he walked up the steps of the coach, don’t bet your latest Rapha shirt on that.