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Woods enters Giro without expectations as EF Education First-Drapac leader

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JERUSALEM (VN) — Canadian Michael Woods raced with the big boys in the 2017 Vuelta a España and placed seventh overall, and Team EF Education First-Drapac later named him as its 2018 Giro d’Italia leader. However, Woods said he just wants to win a stage — a grand tour overall can wait.

Woods arrived in Jerusalem smiling. He is happy to travel and see new places, and he’s also on a high after his Ardennes classics run that included a second-place finish in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

“I had decent results in the past, but that was a better performance than all my previous ones,” said Woods. “Also I had a tough start to the season, I wasn’t going well and my confidence took a bit of a shake.

“I was trying to talk down expectations because I wasn’t having the season that I wanted. However, after that race, my confidence is back up and I’m excited to be here. After the legs I had in Liège, it bodes well for the Giro.”

The Giro d’Italia begins Friday with a 9.7-kilometer time trial. It continues back in Italy with eight summit finishes and in the third week, a 34.2km time trial.

“The overall? Not the way the time trial is going for me. It’s improved but it’s my Achilles heel. I’m not going to try to lose this race, but the big goal for me is to win a stage, then after that, we’ll see how things unfold,” Woods continued.

“Look at Tom Dumoulin, Chris Froome, or even Rohan Dennis, those guys can ride time trials exceptionally well and are going to put big time into riders like myself. It’s going to be up to Fabio Aru, Domenico Pozzovivo, and guys like me to be on the attack later on in the race.”

The 31-year-old came into cycling late after a successful running career. In the 2017 Giro, he helped Pierre Rolland win a stage and in the 2017 Vuelta, he rode alongside Vincenzo Nibali and Chris Froome.

It could be that Woods will pay in the time trials, but it could also be that he and the team are trying to deflect attention until late in the race when he could be riding high.

“At the start of the season, I was told I’d be a leader. I started to put pressure on myself. I started to feel that especially when I got sick,” Woods said.

“I thought I’d come in and set the WorldTour on fire based on how my training was going, but after getting sick and getting my doors blown off in the Vuelta a Catalunya, I started to feel less excitement and more anxiety. Since then, having that Liège result and going well at the Amstel Gold Race, I began to feel more confident for this race.

“The GC is something that is important, but I’m really just targeting stages and not trying to lose time. I don’t want to put crazy expectations on myself.”

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