EF Pro Cycling has been revealing its Tour de France team one rider at a time through recent days. While the full team is still yet to be confirmed, there’s one rider who won’t be on the list – Michael Woods.
The Canadian climbing star confirmed Monday that he has not made the selection for what would have been his second start at the race.
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“Yes, I’m surprised, but it’s a difficult decision for the team,” Woods said Monday.
“The team is really strong, with several very good riders,” he said. “With Rigoberto Urán, Dani Martínez, and Sergio Higuita, it is not easy to be chosen. So this is tough news. It’s a surprise, but it’s not the end of the world.”
With his recent announcement that he would be moving to Israel Start-Up Nation for 2021, questions arise as to whether EF Pro Cycling pulled the top-class climber in a bid to present its longer-term riders the opportunity.
However, Woods ruled out such a possibility, having been told he would not be selected about one month ago.
“In my opinion, it had no influence,” Woods told La Presse of his upcoming departure from the American team. “The decision not to put me in the Tour squad came before [the announcement about Israel Start-Up Nation].”
Despite making a remarkable recovery and returning to what he had described as “almost 100 percent” by June, Woods was anonymous in this month’s Italian classics, finishing 36th, 65th, and 29th, respectively, at Strade Bianche, Milano-Sanremo, and Il Lombardia. The latter was one of his major targets for the year, but he was left far from contention after “just completely exploding on the Sormano wall.”
Nonetheless, with grand tour stage wins, classics victories, and monument and world championships podiums in his palmarés, some would have tapped Woods as a shoo-in for the EF Pro Cycling Tour de France team.
“No, it’s not necessarily a disappointment,” Woods said. “I wanted to do the Tour, but it was not the year for me. Also, the fractured femur may have played a role. It made the decision more difficult for the sports directors. Even though I said my leg was ready, there was a reluctance to put myself in the race after something like this.”
This summer’s Tour, set to roll out Saturday, marked Woods’ last chance to race La Grande Boucle in his team’s distinctive kit. Instead, in 2021, he will be riding in service of Chris Froome, under the guidance of past benefactors and mentors Sylvan Adams and Paulo Saldanha.
In the absence of the Tour, Woods will turn his attentions to Tirreno-Adriatico early September, before his second major target for the year, the Ardennes classics. Riding in the hills of south Belgium in October also rules him out of the Giro d’Italia, leaving only this fall’s Vuelta a España as a grand tour possibility for the year.
Woods remains optimistic nonetheless.
“I’m in good health, I’m in good shape at the moment and I think I can achieve good results in Tirreno and in the Ardennes classics,” he said. “I am really excited about these races.”