Giro d'Italia
Mike Woods in time trial mode at the Vuelta al...

Woods leading ambitious North American contingent at Giro d’Italia

Canada's Mike Woods headlines a healthy list of North American pros set to take on the season's first grand tour

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JERUSALEM, Israel (VN) — From one of the oldest riders in the peloton to a Giro d’Italia newbie, the North American contingent has a bit of everything for the 2018 edition of the corsa rosa.

The North Americans arriving in Jerusalem for Friday’s “big start” of the Giro run the gamut. There’s Svein Tuft, who turns 41 next week, and Guillaume Boivin, who lines up for his first Giro with Israel Cycling Academy in its grand tour debut.

Michael Woods (EF-Drapac) headlines the ambitious North American group in the Giro, which clicks into gear Friday with a prologue around the historic Jerusalem city center. The 31-year-old Canadian is hot off an inspiring second place at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and will be hoping to use that momentum to hunt for a stage win and target a strong GC performance.

“My big goal for this Giro is to get a stage win,” Woods said. “I haven’t won a WorldTour race yet, and with 21 stages on tap, I am hoping I can win one of them.”

Joining Woods at EF Education First-Drapac are Americans Joe Dombrowski and Nate Brown. Dombrowski will be back for his third straight Giro start, while Brown also lines up for his third crack at the Giro. Dombrowski, 26, said he hopes to come into stage-hunting form in the final week in the Giro’s brutal climbs with Brown putting his resources into helping the team.

“My personal ambitions center around helping Woods however I can,” said Brown, 26. “He’s riding super well, and I would love to help him get a result. If the team gives me the opportunity to get into a break or two, I would love to win a stage.”

Riders began turning up en masse to Israel on Tuesday for the season’s first grand tour. Among riders spotted at the airport were defending champion Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step).

Set inside the Giro peloton will be seven North Americans: four Americans and three Canadians. Each brings their own story and ambition to tell over the next three weeks.

Michtelton-Scott’s Tuft, who celebrates his 41stbirthday on May 9, hints this could be his final grand tour of his long career. He will play the faithful role of road captain as the team tries to push Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates up the GC ladder. Boivin, 28, who’s raced two editions of the Vuelta a España, is part of a history-making Israel Cycling Academy team. The squad includes two riders — Guy Niv and Guy Sagiv — who will be the first Israeli riders to start a grand tour.

Chad Haga, 29, is back to support defending champion Dumoulin. Haga was a key rider in last year’s gripping battle, and the team is amped up to try to push Dumoulin as high up the GC standings as possible. Haga buried himself for Dumoulin last year as the Dutchman took the historic pink jersey, and the team will be counting on Haga again.

“We go into the 101st Giro with similar targets to last year; looking for a GC result with Tom,” said Sunweb coach Marc Reef. “Lining up as defending champions will bring special dynamics into both the team and the race, and we will be prepared for that. We learned a lot from last year and we will bring this experience into the mix for this edition.”

Ben King, 29, rounds out the North American contingent at Dimension Data in what will be his Giro debut. Much like Haga at Sunweb, King will be a key helper to Louis Meintjes as the team aim for a stage win and a strong showing in the overall.