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Tour de France

Report: Michael Woods will see leadership role at Tour de France ahead of Chris Froome

Four-time Tour-winner expected to start, but is looking at the Vuelta a España as a more realistic goal as recovery continues.

Michael Woods will be carrying the GC banner at the Tour de France for Israel Start-Up Nation ahead of four-time winner Chris Froome.

That’s according to sport director Rik Verbrugghe, who told the Belgian daily La Dernière Heure that Froome is in no condition to challenge for the yellow jersey.

“The team is built around Michael Woods who has a general classification in mind,” Verbrugghe told the Belgian daily. “And around Dan Martin, who is going for stage wins. We realize that Chris’s current level is insufficient with a view to a good classification or stage win in the Tour.”

Chris Froome could put Vuelta a España on schedule

Those comments are the most direct yet from a team staffer on Froome’s status ahead of the Tour, and provided a hint that the Vuelta a España could become Froome’s late-season target.

Froome, 36, continues to struggle to rediscover his top shape during his recovery program from his 2019 crash at the Critérium du Dauphiné. Since joining Israel Start-Up Nation this season, Froome continues to make progress but admitted that he remains short of the condition needed to challenge for the yellow jersey.

Verbrugghe said there is no contractual guarantee that Froome will race the Tour, but hinted that he will be part of Israel’s “Tour Eight” expected to be released next week.

“Chris’s fighting spirit is especially admirable,” he said. “However, the Tour could be the next step in Chris’ recovery process, especially with a view to the Vuelta. It would also give him a huge boost mentally.”

With Froome taking a second-row seat in the team’s priorities, rising Canadian star Woods will get his shot at a podium run in the Tour. Veteran Dan Martin, who won a stage at the Giro d’Italia, will have the freedom to move to hunt for stages.

Woods, a winner of a stage this year at Tour de Romandie, finished a career-best seventh at the 2017 Vuelta a España. He was 32nd overall in his only Tour start in 2019, and is currently racing at the Tour de Suisse.