The Canadian heads to Brest in arguably the best form of his professional career so far, having finished fifth and winning the mountain jersey in the Tour de Suisse, clinching a second place on the final mountain stage underway. road. Talk to Cyclismenews days before the start of The Great Loop in Brittany, Woods said he looks forward to racing aggressively and relishes the prospect of leading Israel Start-Up Nation on the Tour.“It’s a great season so far and I’m really happy with it,” he said. “I think a lot of that is down to having another year under my belt and joining a team that really supported me and believed in me. It has really been a success so far. It’s definitely the best season I have had so far. I really hope I can keep the momentum going here.
“I think I’m in a good position, especially on the longer climbs. I was really happy with the way I reacted to attacks from guys like Julian Alaphilippe and Richard Carapaz [in Switzerland].
“I’ve had the opportunity to direct before, but never on the bigger stage and I’m really excited about it. “
From February to the Tour of Switzerland earlier this month, Woods has been in the most consistent form of his career since turning pro with Cannondale in 2016. He started 2021 with a stage win and a second place in the general classification of the Tour du Var – just missed the victory because of mechanical problems – then took second place at the finish at the top of Port Ainé at the Volta a Catalunya, before taking the top 5 at La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Another victory came in the rain at the top of Thyon 2000 in Romandie, before his pair of podiums in Switzerland allowed him to take another top five overall. He will aim for another high overall ranking in the Tour – with his best Grand Tour performance so far, a seventh at the Vuelta a España 2017 – and should be among those riders fighting for a top 10 in France. over the next three weeks.
But he is also looking for a stage victory with the two Vuelta stage victories to his name. Last year, Israel Start-Up Nation won stages of the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta, while Dan Martin – who is part of the Tour team – won at Sega di Ala during the Giro of this year. year.
Although the focus is on a good overall performance, the team is still looking to run aggressively in search of what would be their first stage victory on the Tour.
“Although I will be in the lead and chase after a race in the general classification, the big goal is a stage victory. It will come before the overall standings, ”said Woods. “If I’m not doing as well as I hope in the overall standings I’m going to sit down and try to waste time so I can get into the breakaways later.
“But my goal is that I would like to continue running as I did in Romandie and Switzerland, where I am hunting from the point of view of the general classification but running more aggressively and taking a little more caution to the wind in pursuit of a step win.
“We want to be an opportunistic team. With Dan and I and even several other riders in the team, we have chances of securing stage victories. “
Woods admitted he wasn’t out to reconnoitre any of the race’s big mountain events – his busy schedule put an end to any hope of that – although Stage 15 circled his home. adoption from Andorra will take familiar routes. He also plans with a philosophy of not looking too far.
“I’ve always been a guy who doesn’t like to look too far down the road,” said Woods. “I think it’s pretty easy to get overwhelmed by the gravity and distance of the Tour if you think of 10 or 12 stages on the road. I think you have to look forward to the first few days and then re-evaluate. “
Woods and Martin will both be there to fight for stage victories, possibly as early as the opening weekend, which includes the steep slope of Mûr-de-Bretagne on stage 2. Martin won there -low, but Woods is also suitable for the climb, however he admitted that the Tour as a whole is not entirely suited to his skills.
“It’s not the ideal Tour for me,” he said. “I think outside of the Grand Tours the Tour is the easiest from a route point of view, but just the level and level of stress that comes into play in this race makes a race much more difficult than the other two Grand Tours. . That said, although there weren’t that many finishes at the top, we started to run. Stages 1 and 2 will still be quite difficult and I think you will see some gaps in the general classification right away. “
Martin and self-proclaimed ISN captain Chris Froome both have eight circuits under their belt, and the 34-year-old said their experience will be invaluable over the three-week race, along with André Greipel, Rick Zabel and Guillaume Boivin. are also in the squad to get the job done in the tough stages – possibly wind-blown – throughout the Tour.
“I’m happy to have Dan and Chris in this race,” he said. “Dan is in great shape, he just got a Giro victory and I think he’s going to do well here. He often does well after a Grand Tour, and that was proven at La Vuelta last year, where he did the Tour before and then came in fourth.
“It will not only be fun to run with them, but also to glean information from them and learn. It’s the same with Chris. He brings such an incredible perspective to the race. I’ve run with him twice now and learned a lot from him in those two races. “