For Michael Woods, 2022 marks his 10th year as a cyclist and his seventh as a professional, but the 35-year-old climber Israel Start-Up Nation said he still doesn’t feel quite like a veteran of the sport.
Woods, who switched from middle distance running in part because of injuries sustained in the sport, will play his second season with the Israel team next year after a five-year stint with EF Education First.
Along the way, he won two stages and scored a top 10 at the Vuelta a España, won Milan-Turin and finished on the podium at the Road Worlds and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. But he said Cycling news at ISN’s recent postseason camp he’s hesitant to call himself a veteran of the sport, instead noting that his life lessons learned outside of the sport give him something many runners might not have.
“I certainly don’t think of myself as a veteran, but now I don’t feel like an impostor anymore,” Woods said. Cycling news in Tel Aviv. “I definitely felt like an impostor when I started out.
“I feel like I belong to this sport, but I have the impression that outside of the world of cycling I feel like a veteran. I felt like a veteran before I started racing the WorldTour in the experience of life because a lot of guys didn’t go to college there, didn’t have a real job, they had a lot of stopped development.
“But in terms of racing, I feel like when I started I didn’t know anything and now I’m starting to understand the sport a lot better and that’s why I enjoy it more, and that’s why I will continue to improve over the next few years. “
Despite his status as a self-proclaimed non-veteran, Woods nonetheless has a wealth of experience to pass on to the whole team, who have just completed their second year at WorldTour level and have grown rapidly – in the top 10 of the UCI rankings. 2021 – since.
Aside from leading races where he can compete for the best results, he has also taken on this role of helping others on the team – not just housework, but also mentoring his teammates.
“I felt like it was one of the things I wanted to do last year and even more this year,” he said. “In the years to come I want to be more of a leader. I think it was a real honor in Lombardy and in a few other Italian classics this year, Nicki Sorensen asked me to be team manager, captain of team.It’s a role that I really want to jump forward.
“I like the mentoring side of things. I run a coaching business in Canada in racing, so I’ve always enjoyed being a bit of a leader and mentor in that sense, and hopefully I can take some further. other guys under my wing and motivate them and make them pilot better. “
Over the years and as the ISN has grown into a top team in the sport, the riders have changed. Big names like Woods, Chris Froome, Giacomo Nizzolo, Sep Vanmarcke and Jakob Fuglsang lead the 2022 squad, but there have been other changes as well, including the progression of local riders.
While several years ago it was considered a success for an Israeli rider to start a Grand Tour, now the group of Israelis on the team – Omer Goldstein, Guy Niv, Itamar Einhorn and Guy Sagiv – are getting their own results and is proving to be good assistants in big races, said Woods.
“I think now it’s not seen as ‘token Israelis’ but actually professional runners. Itamar beat Peter Sagan in a race. [stage 4 at the Tour of Slovakia]. Omer Goldstein has been helpful on the Tour this year – he has done things that have really impressed me and shown his class as a cyclist.
“That’s what cycling’s biggest handicap from an international point of view is – it’s that it’s so entrenched in certain countries and those countries have representation. It’s not just the Italians. and the Belgians are inherently better physical specimens. They are not the best athletes, you They have the best infrastructure around them. And when you see more international teams and having more infrastructure from other countries, that ‘ is when you see nations doing better.
“It reflects how we have been successful in the UCI rankings over the past few years with Canada. We now have a semi-Canadian WorldTour team quote after quote, and we are outperforming other countries on the continental US rankings by a margin. You’re going to start to see this with Israeli cycling as well. It will only get better with this infrastructure. “
So in 2022, there will be plenty to watch out for at ISN outside of the biggest names on the list. Nonetheless, Woods will certainly be one to watch given his proclamation that he can still improve even at an age when most of the other pros – those with a more traditional career path and a lot more miles in their legs – are starting to. think about ending their career. .
He had a strong 2021 campaign, securing a big victory in the mountains of the Tour de Romandie, as well as the top five in the road race of the Olympics, La Flèche Wallonne, Liège and the Tours of Switzerland and Great Britain. He’s heading into next year in a “good groove” and hopes for a stress-free season preparing for a big goal like the Tokyo Olympics.
“For me, I’m really looking forward to a less stressful season,” said Woods. “There are no world championships for me. I don’t think I will go to Australia because I don’t think it will be a tough enough course. There are no Olympics.
“So it’s more about really enjoying the season and seeing what kind of results I can get. I really, really enjoyed riding my bike on the last boulder of this particular season. very good momentum at the moment and I think good results will come. “