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Michael Woods and Dan Martin: Cycling’s boisterous new bromance

Duo relish prospect of teaming up in the Ardennes with Israel Start-Up Nation; Woods looking to learn from 'killer instinct' of Chris Froome.

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Forget the Mark Cavendish-Bradley Wiggins Madison bromance. Ignore Cavendish’s inseparable bond with lead-out man Mark Renshaw. Michael Woods and Dan Martin are set to become cycling’s most lethal love-in.

The dynamic duo is set to team up at Israel Start-Up Nation this season after Woods transferred from EF Pro Cycling in the off-season. The pair of aggressive Ardennes specialists is now poised to enter a potentially bountiful bromance that they hope will reap rewards through the hilly classics and beyond.

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“I’m really excited to be racing with Dan,” Woods told VeloNews. “As I’ve come up everyone’s compared me to him because we are quite similar. And I have a lot of respect for Dan as a racer, he’s just had so much success. I’m really excited to see how my game improves because of him.”

Though the punchy pairing are both 34 years old, Martin boasts half a dozen more years in the pro peloton, finding his legs with the Garmin-Slipstream franchise at the turn of last decade while Woods was burning up the running tracks in Canada.

In the time since Woods entered the peloton in 2013, he’s developed a similar profile and palmarès to Martin – though without the weight of the Il Lombardia and Liège-Bastogne-Liège victories of his new senior wingman. The Canadian will be quietly taking notes as he rides in the wheel of his new teammate in 2021.

“Dan’s a guy that I think I can really learn from in the next couple of years,” Woods said. “Anytime I’ve talked with him I’ve really gleaned a lot of useful information. And just racing with him will really bring my level up. At the Ardennes particularly we’re going to provide a really nice, one-two punch that could challenge teams like Quick-Step.”

It’s not all a one-way street of stoke, however. Martin more than welcomes the arrival of a racing foil.

“He’s an exciting rider, and we’ve always talked in the bunch,” Martin told VeloNews in a separate phone call. “Having another attacking rider on the team, it’s going to be fun. My fun comes from that tactical kind of racing, and if you have teammates you can bounce that off of, that makes it even more fun.”

Martin and Woods will share goals in the classics but have different ambitions in the grand tours. Photo: Benoit Tessier – Pool/Getty Images

Though Martin and Woods will share ambitions in the Ardennes and Italian classics, their paths will diverge in the grand tours as their Israeli team prepares for the arrival of Chris Froome.

Martin scored a career-best performance over three weeks at last year’s Vuelta a España, finishing fourth overall, and the Irishman is looking to ride that momentum and continue his quest for grand tour glory as co-captain with Froome.

Woods was also in the spotlight at last year’s Vuelta, winning a stage and playing super-domestique for podium finisher Hugh Carthy. He’s now embracing the role of helper-de-luxe and stage-hunter, and is committed to supporting Martin and ISN’s new grand tour talisman Froome.

“I’m really excited about riding with Chris,” Woods said. “He’s the best grand tour rider of this generation. He has this killer instinct mindset that I could learn from. It’s kind of under falling into the same categories as when talking about Dan – I feel like there’s a lot of things I can learn from both.”

Woods and Martin will have time to hone their craft together through the Ardennes spring ahead of turning their attentions to building a new “Fortress Froome,” and sending their Israeli team to the podium of the Tour de France.

Expect some fireworks along the way.