May 26th, 2024

Canadians Mike Woods, Riley Pickrell to race in Giro d’Italia for Israel-Premier Tech

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on April 30, 2024.

Michael Woods from Canada competes in the prologue, a 5,12 km race against the clock at the 75th Tour de Romandie UCI ProTour cycling race in Lausanne, Switzerland, Tuesday, April 26, 2022. Woods is headed to his third Giro d'Italia and 11th Grand Tour race. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP

Canadian rider Michael Woods is headed to his third Giro d’Italia and 11th Grand Tour race.

The 37-year-old from Ottawa, who won a stage at last year’s Tour de France, will be joined by fellow Canadian Riley Pickrell on the Israel-Premier Tech team for the Giro. Pickrell, a 22-year-old from Victoria, will be appearing in his first Grand Tour event.

But Canadian Derek Gee, who posted four second-place and two fourth-place finishes at last year’s Giro, “will focus on other objectives this year,” according to Israel-Premier Tech.

The 107th edition of the Giro starts Saturday in Turin and ends May 26 in Rome some 3,400 kilometres later. The Tour de France and Spanish Vuelta, the other two Grand Tour events, begin June 29 and Aug. 17, respectively.

Gee finished 22nd in the final general classification standings of last year’s Giro and was runner-up to Italy’s Jonathan Milan in the points race and France’s Thibaut Pinot in the King of the Mountains standings. The 26-year-old from Ottawa was also honoured as the Giro’s “super combative rider.”

Led by Gee, Israel-Premier Tech posted nine top-five finishes in last year’s Giro.

Sports director Rene Andrle called the 2023 Giro a “turning point” for the team.

“We may not have won a stage but the way the team rode was nothing short of inspiring and coming so close to a victory on so many occasions has made us even hungrier this year,” Andrle said in a statement. “We have a strong team of opportunists and we will be targeting stage wins once again.”

Woods and Pickrell will be joined at this year’s race by Australia’s Simon Clarke and Nick Schultz, Italy’s Marco Frigo, France’s Hugo Hostetter, Israel’s Nadav Raisberg and Britain’s Ethan Vernon on the Israel-Premier Tech team.

Andrle believes Woods, Clarke and Schultz can all contend for a stage win.

Raisberg, and Vernon join Pickrell in their first Grand Tour event. Hofstetter will be racing in his first Giro.

“Ethan, Hugo and Riley give us multiple cards to play in the sprint stages and I really think we have a team that can win on all terrain,” said Andrle.

Woods returns to the Giro after a six-year absence, looking to complete a trifecta of Grand Tour stage victories.

In addition to his success in last year’s Tour de France, he won a stage in both the 2018 and 2020 editions of the Spanish Vuelta. Woods’ best result at the Giro was runner-up in the fourth stage in 2018.

“I’ve had a tough start to the season with some illness but I feel like that is finally behind me and now it’s time for one of the coolest races on the calendar,” said Woods. “My big ambition for the race will be stage-hunting. Particularly with the illness that I’ve had in the last few months, I will aim to have a conservative start and then look for stages later on as the race progresses.

“So hopefully I can find some form in the early stages and then be aggressive and bag a stage win by the end of the race.”

Woods, who has recovered from a virus that ruled him out of the Ardennes Classics earlier in April, has largely focused on the Tour de France and Spanish Vuelta since his last ride in the Giro in 2018.

Israel-Premier Tech is co-owned by Canadian-Israeli entrepreneur Sylvan Adams with fellow Canadian Kevin Ham also a partner in the team.

Head sports director Steve Bauer raced in nine editions of the Tour de France, finishing fourth overall in 1988 after winning a stage and spent five days in the leader’s yellow jersey. Bauer, just the second Canadian ever to lead the Tour after Alex Stieda in 1986, also wore the yellow jersey for nine straight days In 1990.

Israel-Premier Tech performance director Paulo Saldanha, coach Christopher Rozdilsky and team nutritionist Vanessa Zoras are also Canadians. And co-title sponsor Premier Tech is a Canadian company.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 30, 2024

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