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Cannondale’s Woods on future: ‘I cannot afford to wait’

MOTRIL, Spain (VN) — Emerging star Michael Woods is quietly working to secure his racing future as Cannondale-Drapac team management desperately fights to save the squad.

Although Cannondale-Drapac unveiled a crowdfunding project that could help the team survive, many riders are not taking chances.

The second-year WorldTour pro confirmed to VeloNews he already has a few irons in the fire with other top-level teams.

“I’d like to stay with this team, but I am talking to a couple of teams that I really believe in,” Woods said. “I am feeling good about things. It’s not a really sad story for me, at the moment, at least.”

The 30-year-old Woods continues to impress in just his second grand tour start. After notching two top-5 finishes at the Giro d’Italia in May, Woods has already scored one podium with a third Sunday and is holding steady in the top 10 overall.

Those kind of results are sure to attract attention from top-level WorldTour teams.

The big question for riders like Woods is how long they can afford to wait. Most WorldTour-level team rosters are nearly full by late August for the coming season.

“I am not like Rigo [Rigoberto Urán]. I cannot afford to wait as long as he can, because I don’t have a second place at the Tour de France,” he said. “All I can do right now is focus on my results and my performance, because I cannot control anything else. And hopefully the teams that I really like will respond.”

Woods did not confirm names, but said his agent is testing the waters as they wait to see if Cannondale-Drapac can pull things together to fill a $7 million budget shortfall.

Last weekend, news broke that a major sponsor backed out, leaving a massive hole in the team’s budget. Team boss Jonathan Vaughters is frantically working to try to save the team. Management unveiled a potential game-changing crowdfunding effort Wednesday.

Riders, meanwhile, are getting jittery. Urán’s agent told Cycling News his rider would give Vaughters two weeks, but others likely won’t wait that long.

“It would be nice if the team would survive,” Woods continued. “It’s a bit sad, because this team might fold. I feel like I’ve found a home here. I’ve found a nice groove. It’s kind of frustrating to try to be looking for a team right now when I am fighting for GC. I am just praying and hoping that the team can survive.”

Woods said he’s been keeping one eye on the latest news concerning Cannondale-Drapac’s future, while putting most of his energy on racing the Vuelta.

So far, the crowdfunding effort seems to be gaining steam. A major sponsor offered a $2 million matching donation, which could give the team an additional $4 million.

“That is an indication of how meaningful the team is to fans,” Woods said. “For me, it’s a no-brainer from a sponsor’s perspective to give money to help the team because the fans are so loyal to this team. I am cautiously optimistic. And the way JV has been talking, and how the crowdfunding is going, it seems to be going well.”

The behind-the-scenes sponsor drama comes as Woods is confirming his all-round talent during this Vuelta. So far, the race course has favored his explosive, punchy style, and he’s been close to a stage win, including third Sunday at Cumbre del Sol.

After hanging close on Wednesday’s rainy and cold summit final to Calar Alto, Woods’ goals are evolving.

“I came with the goal of focusing on a stage win, and having the GC as an afterthought,” Woods said. “Now only being 30 seconds off of third, we are shifting the focus to the GC. The way I am feeling. I am feeling great at the moment. I have never ridden GC at a grand tour — period — so I am not sure how I am going to respond the next few days. I am cautiously optimistic.”

It sounds like Woods is optimistic about both his future and his team’s.

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