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Michael Woods (Israel-Premier Tech) has never finished outside the top ten in Liège-Bastogne-Liège through five attempts but the Canadian is still searching for that perfect race performance that will net him a first-ever monument.
The 35-year-old was second in 2018, missing out on the win to Bob Jungels, but he returns to the Belgian classic with his form and confidence on the up after claiming sixth on the Mur de Huy in Wednesday’s La Flèche Wallonne.
“I’m pleased with my form. I’m not ecstatic with the result but I’m not disappointed either, particularly coming from where I’ve come from,” Woods said Friday.
“I wanted better but it was a good result and I think it was a good start to the classics campaign, especially the way the team rode. It gives me a lot of confidence going into Liège. My legs are really good, I just need to execute it better.
“The way I felt on Wednesday was great and I expect to feel even better at Liège. I’m not as explosive as I was last year but I feel like I’m stronger aerobically so that will play to the Liège course more. The way the team rode on Wednesday was really good so we have a strong team going into the race. I’m really excited to be doing it and hopefully I can improve on my best position there.”
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Woods will line up alongside a strong-looking team. 2019 champion Jakob Fuglsang, Daryl Impey, Simon Clarke and Krists Neilands have huge levels of experience, and Fuglsang, who joined the team in the winter from Astana, is expecting a hard-fought encounter.
The Dane has yet to hit top form this season but could play a pivotal role in supporting Woods deep into the long race.
“I’m expecting it to be a hard race like always,” Fuglsang said.
“But I expect we can be there with two guys in the final if we play our cards well. I think the La Roche-aux-Faucons is the decisive climb for us with the new finish. We just have to see how we can play our cards but the team is riding really well and we were in the right position throughout La Flèche Wallonne so if we ride the same at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, then it makes life a lot easier for us. I have a lot of hope for the race on Sunday.”
Israel-Premier Tech has struggled for wins this season but a recent upturn in fortunes at the Tour of Turkey has lifted their victory tally to three for the campaign. The team is not the red hot favorite for Sunday’s classic but their depth and experience should see them at least play a part in the final stages.
“We are going into Liège-Bastogne-Liège with a lot of confidence and as a team, we are motivated to finish the Classics with our best result. I’d say we are not lining up with a top favorite but in Jakob Fuglsang and Mike Woods, we have two strong contenders. Of course, Jakob is a former winner and Mike has finished in the top ten in all five of his participations, including second in 2018,” explained sports directot Eric Van Lancker.
“We saw at La Flèche Wallonne that both riders have recovered from illness and are hitting their best form at the right time. I was also really impressed with the teamwork we saw and if we race like that again on Sunday, I know we can come away from the race with a good result. Jakob and Mike give us multiple cards to play so we can see how the race plays out on Sunday.”