The tendency these days is for athletes to err on the side of caution when it comes to stating their intentions. The microscope of social media, the pressure to perform and the subdued nature of media training are all numbing factors but for Mike Woods, a rider who shoots from the hip, there is no point in being anything but being refreshingly direct.
Last year Woods was one of the revelations of the Tour Down Under, his WorldTour neo-pro legs carrying him to an impressive fifth place overall. This time around the Canadian is looking for nothing but an improvement.
"I'm putting that expectation on myself," he told Cyclingnews before a training ride ahead of the race.
"This year it's a more competitive field than last year. We've got the top guys returning, and you add on top the guys like Peter Sagan, Esteban Chaves and a few other great riders. It's going to be a really competitive field but my form is better, and I've got that one-year of experience under my belt now. I know what to expect so I think a top five finish is an achievable goal and I want to improve on that."
Woods' debut season at Cannondale-Drapac may not have seen him take on a Grand Tour but when the Canadian was brought into action his ability shone through, despite his lack of experience at the highest level.
"I made a lot of mistakes last year. I made mistakes in this race last year. I let a time gap open up on the fourth stage, got gapped and that resulted in me sliding down the GC. Throughout the season I made tonnes of mistakes. I was the classic neo-pro and screwed up a lot. Certainly, I learnt lessons the hard way, but I'm a better rider for it."
A better rider, more confident, and with a dialled in team at his disposal, many at the race are tipping Woods for another strong performance. In Cannondale's ranks they possess former winner Tom Jelte Slagter, and although it is still unclear as to how the Dutchman will be utilised, he could act as the perfect foil for Woods' own ambitions.
"It's really nice having Tom on the team. He won the race in 2013, he's a solid leader and a good guy. He takes pressure off me and means we have a two-pronged approach to the race. He's got a great kick, and I'm strong on the climbs. We have a couple of cards to play."
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