Michael Woods has been named team leader for Israel Start-Up Nation (ISN) at this month’s Tour de France in a move which appears likely to place Chris Froome in a supporting role.
Four-time Tour winner Froome is still on the comeback trail from career-threatening injuries, and when looking off the pace at the Critérium du Dauphiné earlier this month he conceded, “I don’t go from this level to winning the Tour de France in a few weeks”.
ISN’s head director Rik Verbrugghe had said last week that Froome’s contract did not guarantee the Briton a spot on their Tour team, but should the 36-year-old feature as a warm-up for the Vuelta a Espana then it would be to help Woods’ bid for the general classification.
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"I am really excited to represent ISN in the Tour de France, especially in a team leader role,” said Woods, who recently finished fifth at the Tour de Suisse.
“I had an opportunity to lead a team in a Grand Tour, but never at the Tour de France. I am honoured to be given this position, especially considering the quality of the team we have.
"My main goals and priorities are clear: stage wins first and try to go high on the general classification. We want to do well on the GC, no doubt, but the most important thing for me is the stage wins. That’s the main focus."
Both Froome and Giro d’Italia stage winner Dan Martin are still likely to make the team, although ISN are yet to name the rest of their line-up after confirming Woods on Monday.
"I think I’m in a good spot right now," said Woods. "I learned some excellent lessons in the Tour de Suisse that we just finished yesterday, where I was able to fight for stage wins and finished fifth overall.
"I think we’re going to use those lessons going into this Grand Tour. I’m excited about it, I believe there are some excellent opportunities for us – not just for me but for the team, and I’m looking forward to starting up in Bretagne.”
Like Froome, who moved from Ineos Grenadiers, Woods is enjoying his first season at ISN after joining from EF.
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The Canadian’s best Grand Tour finish was seventh in the Vuelta a Espana in 2017, while he won stages there in 2018 and 2020.
Verbrugghe added: “The thing with Mike is that before joining us, he was always the second rider. The one to work for a leader. Joining ISN, we allowed him to lead, and he proved to us that he is, indeed, a natural leader.
“His success in the Classics, the Tour de Romandie, and the Tour de Suisse gave him – and us – the confidence that he can play the role in the greatest cycling race of all, the Tour.
“I expect him to fight for stage wins and be there in the GC hunt as he did in the Tour de Suisse. The team’s primary focus will be to protect Woodsy and provide all the support he will need.”
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