Woods renews with EF Education First

32-year-old Canadian was second at Liege-Bastogne-Liege last year

Michael Woods, runner-up at the 2018 Liege-Bastogne-Liege, has signed a "multi-year" contract renewal with EF Education First, the team announced today.

Woods, 32, has scored three UCI wins with the team since signing in 2016, including a stage at the Vuelta a Espana last year along with stage wins at the Tour of Utah and the Herald Sun Tour. The former collegiate runner was also third at the UCI Road World Championships Road Race in Innsbruck last September.

"The direction of the team, the idea of exploring the world – it all really meshes with what I believe in," said Woods. "I feel very fortunate to be on a team that values what I naturally value – education, exploration, community."

Woods started his cycling career relatively late. He played hockey growing up before finding success in running. He set the Canadian junior record in the mile (3:57:48) and the 3km (7:58:55). Both records still stand today. Woods earned a track scholarship to the University of Michigan and competed for the Canadian national team, harbouring ambitions of becoming one of the best milers until overtraining injuries derailed his career. He signed his first contract with a Continental team in 2013 before moving up to Jonathan Vaughters' Slipstream program.

"I came to the team not knowing who I was as a cyclist and what I was capable of," Woods said. "I didn't fit the typical neo-pro role. I'm lucky to have had the directors and team managers believe in me. I had no experience in the WorldTour when I joined the team, but JV said I could win an Ardennes Classic.

"Knowing what I know now, that was a bold prediction for him to make about me at the time. I had not shown anything that truly indicated I could win a Classic – but he was right. I haven't won one yet, but with the results I got last year, these are races we know I can win."

Woods, who has raced twice raced both the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana twice, finishing seventh at the Vuelta in 2017, is hoping to make his Tour de France debut this year after having another crack at the Ardennes Classics.

“I really want to try to win some big races now,” Woods said. “I’m starting to figure out how to win in the WorldTour. That doesn’t mean I’m going to win every race, have success in every race. I know I will have some big failures [...] but I’m much more consistent now. I have a better understanding of my fitness and can better predict how I will perform.”

Vaughters said the team had kept an eye on Woods for several seasons because his raw talent was clear, but his inexperience in the peloton was an issue that has kept other promising riders from flourishing in cycling. 

"His talent was clear based on his running, but it’s a rare runner who can figure out the bike handling and nuance of bike racing,” said Vaughters. “But at Tour of Utah in 2015, I felt he had a certain extra determination to get over those hurdles. He was a gut feeling signing. I’m so happy to see him progress so far.

“Performance-wise, the sky is the limit for Mike,” Vaughters added. “That’s exciting for the team. But beyond that, he’s just a fantastic person to have on the team. Mike Woods is all heart. He gives all he’s got to his teammates. And I couldn’t be happier to have him on the team.”

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