Canadian Michael Woods has signed a two-year extension with the Slipstream Sports WorldTour team currently known as Cannondale-Drapac. The 31-year-old former runner came to Slipstream's Cannondale team in 2016 and has rapidly progressed through the pro peleton, finishing seventh in this year's Vuelta a Espana.
“There was no question that we wanted Mike to stay with us,” said Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “We knew he was capable of the performances he put in this year if he was managed and mentored properly, and we think we’re still uncovering the depths of his potential. Mike is motivated, bright and open-minded. He’s an asset to our program."
Woods initially signed a two-year extension with the team after stage 7 of the Vuelta, according to the rider's most recent blog on Cyclingnews, but the agreement was put on hold when the team went through some sponsorship uncertainty and faced a possible shuttering of its doors. Woods' agents started seeking out other offers, but when Vaughters landed EF Education First as a new title sponsor, the negotiations with Slipstream were back on.
“The team has put their faith in me from the start,” Woods said. “They were the first team that reached out to me, and they gave me a leadership role in my very first race – which is even harder to wrap my mind around now than it was back then. I’m happy to have the opportunity to pay back everyone for the trust and support they showed me during these next two years.”
Woods burst onto the WorldTour in 2016 at the Tour Down Under, where he finished fifth overall in his WorldTour debut. Although his 2016 season was hampered by illness and injury, his potential continued to shine though with a 12th-place finish at Flèche Wallonne and promising end-of-season results that included second and Milano-Torino and 31st in Il Lombardia.
“I couldn’t get out of my own way,” Woods said of his 2016 effort. “I had the legs but not the experience or the confidence. My teammates were exceedingly patient with me – especially Alex Howes and Simon Clarke.”
Woods' 2017 season got off to a slower start when he finished 21st at Tour Down Under and then battled a cold through Paris-Nice, where he finished an unremarkable 54th overall. His form and newfound tactical abilities started to come to the fore, however, as he cracked the top 10 in stages at Volta a Catalunya and Pais Vasco, and he was second at the one-day Gran Prix Miguel Indurain in Spain.
Woods went one better at Flèche Wallonne in 2017, finishing 11th, and he cracked the top 10 with ninth at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the race where he crashed and broke his hand the year before. He started his first GrandTour at the Giro d'Italia, finishing fifth on stages 6 and 8, and coming in ninth on stage 17. Woods was relatively quiet at the Tour de Suisse, but he exploded in the Vuleta, where he finished third behind Chris Froome and Esteban Chaves on the stage 9 summit finish to Cumbre del Sol.
Woods consistently climbed with the best at the Vuelta, securing his seventh-place overall result by finishing sixth on the stage 15 climb to Alto Hoya de la Mora, seventh on the stage 17 climb to Los Machucos and 10th on the stage 20 climb up the Angliru.
“The things that I’ve accomplished this year are a result of my development by this team,” Woods said. “I am so grateful that Vaughters found a way for Slipstream Sports to continue and that EF Education First stepped up to partner with us. I had other offers, but there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than here.
“Beyond the support I’ve been offered, I have made great friendships with my teammates, our staff and our sponsors. It wouldn’t be the same riding anywhere else.”
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