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Froome, Woods recover from COVID to lead Israel-Premier Tech at Vuelta a España

MENDE FRANCE JULY 16 Christopher Froome of United Kingdom and Team Israel Premier Techduring the team presentation prior to the 109th Tour de France 2022 Stage 14 a 1925km stage from SaintEtienne to Mende 1009m TDF2022 WorldTour on July 16 2022 in Mende France Photo by Alex BroadwayGetty Images
Chris Froome (Image credit: Getty Images)

Michael Woods and Chris Froome both left the Tour de France in the final week due to COVID-19 but return to play leading roles for Israel-Premier Tech at the Vuelta a España.

Woods, who made it through 20 stages in France before testing positive for the virus ahead of the final stage to Paris, will lead the team's general classification charge at the Spanish Grand Tour. 

Froome, who made it through 17 stages in France, revealed that COVID hit him hard but indicated he's back and hoping to continue his long-awaited uptick in form after placing third on the Alpe d'Huez stage at the Tour. 

The pair are the big names in Israel-Premier Tech's line-up for the Vuelta, which also includes a sprinter, Itamar Einhorn, and several other stage hunting prospects in Daryl Impey, Patrick Bevin, Carl Fredrik Hagen, Alessandro De Marchi, and Omer Goldstein. 

"I’m doing quite well after having Covid and I wasn’t impacted too long but it took me a fair amount of time to recover from the crash I sustained on stage 9 of the Tour de France so I definitely needed a bit of time off," said Woods.

"I had two solid weeks of training where I started feeling like my old self on the bike and wrapped up a good training block in Andorra so I’m feeling confident and optimistic for the Vuelta."

Woods has a strong relationship with the Vuelta, having placed seventh overall in 2017 while making his breakthrough as a cyclist after starting his athletic career as a runner. He went on to win stages at the 2018 and 2020 editions and appeared to be leaning away from riding for the overall classification in Grand Tours, but his team have set a target of the top-10 for this Vuelta. 

"I think of all the Grand Tours, it is the one that suits me the best," said Woods, who will find a typically punchy parcours to his liking, even if the opening team time trial and 30km individual time trial ons stage 10 represent hurdles. 

"I am really excited to do another GC run, especially at a race I have had success at in the past. I got my first WorldTour win in the Vuelta and it’s a race that has always been close to my heart."

Froome, meanwhile, will have a "free card", according to the team. The two-time Vuelta champion has been on a long comeback trail from his career-threatening crash in 2019 and has finally started to show glimmers of form this summer, the Alpe d'Huez breakaway being his best performance for three years. 

The Vuelta was set to be the next step in trying to rediscover his levels of old but it remains to be seen whether he can produce any breakaway fireworks in the mountains after COVID-19 turned out to be a significant setback. 

"Covid hit me harder than expected but I’m fully recovered now and back to my normal training load," Froome said. 

"It wasn’t quite the buildup to the Vuelta that I had hoped for this year but I’m still very much looking forward to making the most of the race and helping Israel-Premier Tech get another successful Grand Tour in the bag."

The Vuelta kicks off with a team time trial in Utrecht, Holland, on Friday, and finishes in Madrid on September 11. 

Israel-Premier Tech for the Vuelta a España 

  • Patrick Bevin (NZ)
  • Alessandro De Marchi (ITA)
  • Itamar Einhorn (ISR)
  • Chris Froome (UK)
  • Omer Goldstein (ISR)
  • Carl Fredrik Hagen (NOR)
  • Daryl Impey (RSA)
  • Michael Woods (CAN)

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