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Tour de France

Michael Woods tipped for Tour de France leadership ahead of Chris Froome

Israel Start-Up Nation confirms Canadian will lead instead of four-time Tour winner.

Michael Woods — not Chris Froome — will be leading Israel Start-Up Nation at the Tour de France.

The Israeli-backed team confirmed that the 34-year-old Canadian will assume leadership duties in 2021 after Froome fell short of aspirations during a series of spring races.

In fact, Froome is still not officially on the roster. Team officials confirmed Monday that Woods will lead, and the remainder of the team’s “Tour Eight” will be revealed later.

“I expect [Woods] to fight for stage wins and be there in the GC hunt as he did in the Tour de Suisse,” sport director Rik Verbrugghe said in a team release Monday. “The team’s primary focus will be to protect ‘Woodsy’ and provide all the support he will need.”

Also read: Michael Woods and his ISN debut

The designation is a coming of age of sorts for Woods, who joined the WorldTour in 2016.

“My main goals and priorities are clear: stage wins first and [to] try to go high on the general classification,” Woods said Monday. “We want to do well on the GC, no doubt, most important thing for me is the stage wins. That’s the main focus.”

Woods is coming off a strong performance during the Tour de Suisse, finishing fifth overall and winning the King of the Mountains jersey.

Also read: Full details of the 2021 Tour de France route

Froome, meanwhile, continues on his recovery from his career-threatening crash at the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné. Despite expectations of an upward trend as the season unfolded, Froome was unable to have much of an impact in the five stage races he completed this spring.

“I think I’m in a good spot right now,” Woods said. “I learned some excellent lessons in the Tour de Suisse … [and] 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.”

Israel Start-Up Nation is also expected to bring Dan Martin, who will hunt for stages, along with Alex Dowsett and perhaps veteran sprinter André Greipel, who won his first races in Europe since 2018.

The Tour starts June 26 in Brest.