Category: Rigoberto Urán

Who will lead Colombia at worlds?

With a climber-friendly world championships approaching, it’s only natural that the world’s best climbers will be among the favorites. That puts Colombia and its powerful eight-rider lineup for Austria move in great position for the rainbow jersey.

At first glance, the Colombian team looks like it should blast straight to its first elite men’s world title. With firepower in the form of Miguel Ángel López, Rigoberto Urán, Sergio Henao, and Nairo Quintana, what could possible go wrong?

That answer, of course, is a lot. If Colombia does not rally around one clear leader, the team could end up with nothing.

“We understand each other well,” Henao said during the Vuelta of his compatriots. “I don’t expect there to be any problems. The tactics will be decided once we are in Austria.”

Along with France, Italy and Spain, among a few others, Colombia will be among the top favorites in Austria in what should be a climber’s banquet. With more than 5,000 vertical meters on the elite men’s road course, coupled with the final climb featuring ramps as steep as 28 percent, worlds seems tailormade for the Colombians.

With Colombia’s stellar squad, the nation’s first real shot at the rainbow jersey in a generation will come down to how well the team is organized and how much the other riders are willing to sacrifice.

Henao insisted the team always rallies around each other for the common good in major international events.

“We know this is a big opportunity,” Henao said. “It’s important that we are honest with each other. That hasn’t been a problem in the past. Even though we are pros and ride for other teams during the seasons, we always ride together [during the worlds].”

Coming out of the Vuelta, López and Urán were looking sharpest. Henao was on domestique duty and seemed to be cagily hiding his form, yet he did not win a stage or do anything encouraging to provide a glimpse of his form. He insisted he was at the Vuelta to work and hone his fitness for Austria.

López and Urán both had pressure to perform in the GC. That could work against them as they might not be as fresh for Austria as some of their other rivals. Yet that also means they have the depth and base that only the Vuelta can deliver for such a demanding and explosive course like at Innsbruck.

“Of course we want to do well in the Vuelta — the whole team is working for that — but we’re also not forgetting the worlds,” Urán said during the Vuelta. “Leaders? We’ll talk about that later. The most important thing is that the legs are good and there is a good understanding between all of us.”

The worlds is a unique race. Tactics and teamwork are essential to control the race and put the designated leaders into position to win on the final decisive closing lap or two. While the Colombians are renowned for their climbing prowess, riding and working as a unified unit and putting aside ego and ambition will be challenge for the team. Just like all the favorites, the Colombians know they need to go in with a solid game plan.

So far, no one is willing to raise their hand to claim captaincy, at least not publicly. The team will gather in Austria next week to recon the course and put in some final training sessions ahead of the September 30 men’s road race.

“We know we will have a strong team and we will have many cards to play,” said López, who could emerge as the outright leader. “The most important thing is that we have someone in position to try to win during the most important part of the race.”

Everyone will be wondering what role Quintana will play. He was far from his sharpest in the Vuelta and has never won a major one-day race. Quintana’s only raced the elite worlds three times and only finished once, landing 68th in 2012.

“We’ll recover from the Vuelta and see where we are,” Quintana said. “We will have more time to consider tactics once everyone is in Austria.”

Despite a hint of intrigue, Colombia does bring some workers. Among them are Sebastian Henao (Sky), Winner Acacona (Movistar), Dani Martinez (EF-Drapac), and Rodrigo Contreras (EPM Scott), the latter the only rider not currently racing for a WorldTour team, though he is headed to Astana in 2019.

Notable missing names include Fernando Gaviria, the explosive sprinter who will get his chances at the rainbow jersey in the future on courses better suited to his capabilities. Also missing is Esteban Chaves, who is struggling with Epstein-Barr, as well as Egan Bernal, the phenomenal climber who is still recovering from facial surgery following his crash at the Clásica San Sebastián. Bernal could have done well in Austria but he has not raced since his crash.

Highly touted climber Ivan Sosa (Androni-Sidermec), who beat back López at the Vuelta a Burgos in August, will be among the favorites in the under-23 road race.

This will certainly be Colombia’s best chance to win its first rainbow jersey on the road. Santiago Botero claimed Colombia’s only elite men’s world title when he won the time trial in Zolder in 2002.

Urán holds the best international men’s road race achievement when he took second in the 2012 Olympic Road Race in London.

“Of course everyone wants to be the world champion,” Urán said. “The most important thing is that one of us Colombians is the one who wins.”

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Why Colombia keeps producing talented cyclists

In late June, Daniel Martínez was nervously waiting at his parent’s house for the phone to ring. The 22-year-old Colombian was all but sure to be named to EF Education First-Drapac’s Tour de France team. It wasn’t official until the call.

“It’s a dream to race with riders like Nairo [Quintana] and Rigo [Urán],” Martínez said. “I grew up watching their exploits on TV. They are why I wanted to be a bike racer.”

Along with 21-year-old compatriot Egan Bernal and 20-year-old Ivan Sosa, Martínez is part of a new wave of Colombian talent already making an impact in the international peloton. Other riders in Colombia’s latest surge include Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step) and Miguel Ángel López (Astana), each a few years older at 23 and 24, respectively. They’re young, brash, and highly talented.

Every one of these riders grew up watching Nairo Quintana and Rigoberto Urán put Colombian cycling back on the map. Now they’re poised to go even higher.

IF IT SEEMS COLOMBIANS are coming out of the woodwork these days, you’re right.

Colombia’s two-wheeled renaissance began a decade ago when a new generation of trailblazing stars traveled to Europe. First, it was Urán and Quintana, then Esteban Chaves and Carlos Betancur. Right behind them were ace sprinter Gaviria and Giro d’Italia podium finisher Lopez, both already lighting up the WorldTour.

The Colombian talent factory keeps churning them out, with Bernal and Martínez moving up to the WorldTour this season with Sky and EF Education First-Drapac, respectively. Sosa delivered the win at the Adriatica Ionica stage race in June for Androni-Sidermec. It seems there are young Colombians everywhere in the WorldTour peloton.

“Everyone wants to have a Colombian rider on their team now,” said Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere, who signed Gaviria in 2015. “Why? Because they are great bike racers. And they have ambition.”

In 2018, there are 17 Colombians racing across nine WorldTour teams. There are another half-dozen racing at the Professional Continental level — not counting the 15 on the Manzana-Postobon team based in Colombia.

Where are they all coming from? Martínez’s story is not unlike that of many of his compatriots.

“My dream was to play soccer, but destiny has a way of putting you in its place,” Martínez said. “Believe it or not, no one in my family was ever involved in cycling. At 13, my dad gave me a bike and I started riding in the mountains around my house. I immediately liked it.”

The “mountains” are monsters by any scale. Martínez’s parents live at 8,400 feet and local climbs reach as high as 14,500 feet. That altitude churns out climbers like the Nebraskan prairie produces offensive linemen.

Before this season, not many people had even heard of Martínez or Bernal. But the signs were there. Bernal won last year’s Tour de l’Avenir, with Martínez as a key helper. The pair finished first and second in the Colombian national time trial championships in January. Then Bernal won the Amgen Tour of California, sharing the podium with Martínez who was third.

Success doesn’t happen overnight in cycling, and there are no exceptions to that rule in Colombia. Its rich and deep cycling tradition dates back more than 50 years and is helping to inspire this new glut of talent.

Martínez came of age in a nation pulling itself out of decades of war and conflict. While Urán’s father was gunned down in Colombia’s violencia, Martínez’s parents were forced to vacate their small sugar cane farm in the 1980s to flee growing violence in Colombia’s hinterlands. They found refuge in Soacha, a working-class suburb of the sprawling capital of Bogotá, perched at 8,400 feet. It was a safe place for a young family and ideal for a budding climber.

By the time Martínez started racing in local clubs when he was 15 and 16, Urán was poised to win a silver medal at the 2012 Olympic Games. Meanwhile, Quintana would soon finish second overall, win a stage, and take the best climber’s and young rider’s jersey at the 2013 Tour de France.

“There was a big boom in Colombian cycling with Rigo and Nairo,” Martínez said. “Everyone wanted to race their bikes. Everyone wants to be like Nairo and Rigo.”

Martínez said there were so many junior riders wanting to start weekend regional races that organizers had to cut off the limit at around 200 per category. Just like in Italy and Belgium, there is a thriving local club community across Colombia. Local promoters, churches, social clubs, and cycling teams put on the races. Martínez was good right from the start and quickly got tapped to join the national team. He raced at the Pan-American Games and the 2013 world championships as a junior. That earned him a stint at the UCI’s World Cycling Center.

“I was winning almost all of my junior races,” Martínez said. “The national team saw me and helped me with equipment and brought me to races. It all started there.”

Just like in Europe, only the very best even have a hope of making it to the pros. Martínez said Bernal is the only other rider from his junior racing days who’s made it to the WorldTour level. And of his friends he made at the World Cycling Center, he’s the only one who is racing today on the WorldTour.

Daniel Martinez
Daniel Martinez is one of the latest up-and-comers from Colombia in the pro peloton. Photo: Tim de Waele | Getty Images

CYCLING HAS DEEP ROOTS in Colombia. It became a national sport in the 1960s and 1970s, and the Tour of Colombia emerged as an annual highlight for international competition.

Long before Quintana and Urán ventured to Europe, a wave of Colombian climbers made the trip in the 1980s, riding with Colombia’s first professional team, Café de Colombia. The team quickly made its presence felt.

Nicknamed the escarabajos — or beetles, for their spindly climbing style — riders like Luis “Lucho” Herrera and Fabio Parra became national heroes, with Herrera becoming the first Colombian to win a grand tour at the 1987 Vuelta a España. Parra became the first Colombian to finish on the Tour de France podium when he was third in 1988.

Many expected Colombia to become a world force in cycling, but things just as quickly stalled by the early 1990s. Why? There were a few reasons.

The Café de Colombia team folded in 1990, and without a Colombian-backed pro team, there were fewer Colombians racing with success in Europe by the early 1990s. And the top European teams stopped racing in Colombia, so there wasn’t a lot of cross-pollination like there was in the 1980s.

There were exceptions, including 2002 world time trial champion Santiago Botero and Victor Hugo Peña, who became the first Colombian to wear the yellow jersey in 2003. Overall, however, Colombian cycling went into the slow lane in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Others suggest another reason for the nation’s competitive decline: The natural benefits the Colombians gained from living and training at altitude were all but neutralized by the use of EPO and blood transfusions that swept through the peloton. That’s not to say that Colombians were not doing the same thing as other riders in that era, but the argument goes that the Colombians lost their natural edge during the EPO era. They just simply didn’t gain as much by chemical means.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the Colombians returned to prominence with the introduction of the biological passport and enhanced doping controls in the late 2000s.

Carlos Betancur, one of the stars of the current wave of Colombian talent, said as much after finishing third at the 2013 Flèche Wallonne.

“With so many anti-doping controls and the biological passport, it’s helping us because we live and train at altitude,” Betancur said. “So when we come down, it’s a bit of an advantage to us.”

COLOMBIA’S CYCLING RENAISSANCE BEGAN in earnest about a decade ago under the tutelage of Colombian trainer and sport director Luis Fernando Saldarriaga. Today, he’s a manager at the Colombian Pro Continental team Manzana-Postobon, but in 2008 he began to nurture most of today’s elite crop of Colombian superstars, including Betancur, Quintana, Chaves, and Sergio Henao.

As head trainer at the Colombia es Pasión amateur team from 2008 to 2011, Saldarriaga was the first Colombian to introduce science-based training techniques and the use of power meters. The team won back-to-back editions of the Tour de l’Avenir with Quintana and Chaves in 2010 and 2011. Under his guidance, the team was also the first to operate under the biological passport program. Having a long track record of blood profiles and health data helped ease the way for this new generation to enter the WorldTour in Europe.

Meanwhile, a return to civil peace in Colombia over the past decade has allowed the sport to blossom again at the grassroots level. Today, in addition to the Manzana-Postobon team, there are another six Continental teams. That gives a lifeline to dozens of young, promising talents who clamor to be the next Nairo.

“There are big races every weekend,” Martínez said. “The racing season goes for months and months. Only soccer is bigger than cycling in Colombia.”

Martinez Bernal
eam Sky’s Egan Bernal (right) and Daniel Martínez (EF Education First-Drapac) chat before stage 7 of the 2018 Amgen Tour of California. Photo: Christian Petersen | Getty Images

IF SALDARRIAGA HELPED LAY the groundwork for today’s Colombian boom, it was Rigoberto Urán who blazed the trail.

Now 31, Urán is the unofficial “padrino” of this new wave of Colombian cyclists. In 2006, at the age of 19, he turned pro and moved alone to Europe. In some ways, he has been a transitional figure, ushering in the generation of riders who had to find their own way to Europe a decade ago, and forging the path for today’s crop of Colombian talent.

His success not only opened doors for him at some of the biggest teams in Europe — with stints at Team Sky, Quick-Step, and Caisse d’Epargne (now Movistar) — it put Colombia back on the map.

Right behind Urán came a wave of riders that dominate the peloton today, including Henao, Chaves, Betancur, Lopez, and Jarlinson Pantano, who have all finished on grand tour podiums or won WorldTour races. Quintana has emerged as a superstar in the sport since his debut in 2012, winning both the Vuelta and Giro d’Italia, and finishing on three Tour podiums.

Many of those riders draw a straight line to Urán.

“Sometimes people say it all started with me, but there were always good Colombian cyclists,” Urán said. “It was only until my generation that people started to give us more opportunities to come to Europe.”

While Urán had to do much of it on his own, today there is a much deeper support system in place in Colombia to tap promising talent. Martínez, for example, already had an agent and had trained at the World Cycling Center by the time he was 18.

However, making it to the WorldTour and thriving there are hardly the same thing. Why do the Colombians shine in Europe? There are many moving parts in the background.

After the talent come the agents. Several ply the Colombian races with a sharp eye on the next Quintana. Among those signing big riders include Paolo Alberati, who is the agent of Bernal and new Colombian talent Sosa. Giuseppe Acquadro is another with several Colombians on his roster, including Urán, Henao, and others. Italian ex-pro Giovanni Lombardi, who is also Peter Sagan’s agent, represents Fernando Gaviria. He also helps organize races, including Colombia’s new Oro y Paz and the Tour de San Juan.

Agents help open the door to Europe because they have contacts at all the big teams. Many teams are quick to sign Colombians because, generally, they don’t initially demand high salaries. They also usually adapt very well to racing in Europe. Martínez, for example, works with Acquadro, who helped him land a two-year deal with Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia for 2016 after the Team Colombia team folded in 2015.

Part of the funnel inevitably goes through Italy via the irrepressible Gianni Savio, manager of Androni-Sidermec. The veteran Italian manager famously signed unknown Egan Bernal in 2016 before anyone had even heard of him.

“I have contacts going back 30 years in Colombia,” said Savio, who also served as Colombia’s national team coach for many years. “Today, everyone wants to sign Colombians. Why? Because they know how to win races.”

Once in Europe, there are several informal networks to help the young Colombians find their feet. Many settle close to their respective teams. For years, Spain’s Pamplona was home to riders such as Quintana, Urán, and Sergio Henao. Many moved to Monaco as their fortunes rose, but in the early days, Urán would rent rooms in his house and help the young arrivals find their feet in Europe.

Of course, once the Colombians arrive in Europe, they want to stay. As Lefevere said, most are ambitious and hungry not only to win races but also to make a good living from racing.

For Martínez, he’s not quite in Quintana’s league yet. As he anticipated that call in late June, he nervously waited in the kitchen of his parent’s house.

“The dream? Right now, to help Rigoberto Urán win the Tour de France,” Martínez said. “For me? We’ll see. It never hurts to dream.”

Someday soon, it’s likely that the dream of a first Colombian Tour de France winner will become a reality.

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Urán to head up EF’s GC bid at Vuelta

After a Tour de France that did not go according to plan, Rigoberto Urán will get another shot at a grand tour result this season. The Colombian is headed to Spain to head up EF Education First-Drapac squad at the Vuelta a España.

“Rigo is our leader and will contest the general classification,” said sports director Juan Manuel Gárate. “We have the space to show how good he is and how good we are with this team at the Vuelta.”

Urán, who was the overall runner-up at the 2017 Tour, did not enjoy the same success in France this July. A crash on the cobbled ninth stage saw him struggle as the race hit the mountains. He pulled out of the race after stage 11. Like BMC’s Richie Porte and Bahrain-Merida’s Vincenzo Nibali, he’ll hope to bounce back from his Tour crash at the Vuelta.

“I have strong guys for the climbing days, guys for the flat stages and guys for the wind,” Urán said. “I’m really happy with the team for this Vuelta, and I believe we can do something special.”

Having Mike Woods for company should help. The Canadian finished seventh overall at the Vuelta last year, although he downplayed his own hopes for a general classification bid this time around in Spain.

“After crashing at Tour of Utah, and having the wound get infected, I’ve had to adjust my expectations,” he said. “I’m not ruling out any possibilities, but based off of how I have been feeling over the past week, I am going to try and play things safe over week one and build from there.”

EF can also rely on veterans Daniel Moreno and Pierre Rolland when the road tilts up, a common occurrence in the Spanish grand tour.

Simon Clarke, who won a stage and the king of the mountains title at the 2012 Vuelta, will also make the start for EF. Sebastian Langeveld, Tom Van Asbroeck, and Mitch Docker will round out the roster for the American-based team.

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Uran withdraws from Tour de France after Roubaix crash

Colombian star Rigoberto Uran withdrew from the Tour de France prior to Thursday’s stage 12 to Alpe d’Huez, citing injuries he sustained in a crash earlier in the race.

In a team release from EF Education First-Drapac, Uran said he felt “pain in my body” during Wednesday’s punishing mountain stage from Albertville to La Rosiére. Uran was dropped early in the 110-kilometer stage and finished in 111th place, 26 minutes behind winner Geraint Thomas. The result effectively eliminated Uran from the GC battle.

“It’s difficult for me and also for my team,” Uran said. “We prepared for this Tour, all season we were focused on the Tour. Sometimes this happens, and this time, I think it’s the best decision for me to recover and to recover well.”

Uran was one of more than a dozen riders to crash during Sunday’s ninth stage from Arras to Roubaix, which included 15 sectors of cobblestones. Uran went down after one sector of cobbles, landing hard on his leg and arm. He lost more than a minute to his GC rivals on that stage. On Tuesday, Uran lost more time on the Tour’s first Alpine stage.

EF Education First director Charly Wegelius said the injuries compromised Uran’s position on the bicycle, which “could create problems down the line.” The team said the injuries had compromised Uran’s ability to pedal.

“We along with Rigo felt it best to pull out of the Tour this morning so he can recover and look toward the remainder of the season,” Wegelius said. “Ultimately this decision comes down to the rider. If a rider wants to continue the race, we look to ways to do that safely. If a rider feels it best to pull out, we do not push them to continue.”

The move brings an end to the team’s GC ambitions for 2018. EF Education First’s highest-place rider in the general classification is now Pierre Rolland, who sits in 39th place, 37 minutes behind Thomas. The team came into the 2018 race with major ambitions for the overall with Uran. In 2017, Uran rode a near-flawless race to finish second overall behind Chris Froome.

In September 2017 the team — then called Cannondale-Drapac — nearly dissolved when a potential sponsor decided not to come on board. Rather than seek another contract, Uran continued with the team as it sought out a new deal, eventually inking an agreement with EF Education First.

Team CEO Jonathan Vaughters said Uran’s departure means “another Tour starts today.”

“We look forward to getting him back healthy for the rest of the season,” Vaughters said. “The guys that remain are fighters, and we have some chances coming up in the mountains.”

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Urán resets Tour goals but promises ‘we’re not giving up’

LE-GRAND-BORNAND, France (VN) — Rigoberto Urán is recalibrating his Tour de France goals after slipping backward Monday as the race titled upward.

Dreams of becoming Colombia’s first Tour winner started to unravel with a late-stage crash in Sunday’s day on the cobblestones. Banged up and bruised, Urán put on a brave face Tuesday in the 2018 Tour’s first major mountain stage, but Urán ceded another 2:36 when he couldn’t keep pace. He sunk to 34th at 5:59 back.

Urán challenged Chris Froome all the way to Paris in 2017. The Sky leader took his fourth Tour by his smallest winning margin. However, Urán admitted he won’t be winning the Tour this year.

“Of course I won’t be leaving the Tour,” Urán told journalists Tuesday who wondered how serious his injuries were. “It’s obvious that when you have a crash like this you have to reconsider your options.”

Two days of costly time losses were in sharp contrast to Urán’s otherwise near-perfect start of the 2018 Tour. The veteran Colombian came into the race hoping to better his runner-up status of last year by making history as Latin America’s first yellow jersey.

Team Education First rode flat out to bring Rigoberto Uran back into contention but the Colombian would ultimately lose nearly two minutes. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media |

Things were relatively going well Sunday until he slid out on a corner after coming out of a cobblestone sector about 30km to go Sunday. It appeared Urán was struck from behind and the blow sent him toppling hard onto an asphalt section.

EF Education First-Drapac rallied around Urán and the team managed to limit the damage though it was clear Urán was hobbled. With bandages covering his wounds, Tuesday’s entrée into the Alps for the Tour’s first major climbs were doubly hard for Urán. He struggled to keep pace as Team Sky turned on the turbos and the elastic eventually snapped.

“I tried to stay at the front today, but the blow from Sunday was pretty complicated,” Urán said. “Today in the race I was suffering, with some pain in the back, and we lost a bit of time. Now we are behind quite a bit and we’ll regroup as a team and see what we can do.”

Rigoberto Uran
Rigoberto Uran had a lonely ride home in stage 10. Photo: Tim de Waele | Getty Images

This is not where Urán and EF were hoping to be nearing the Tour’s midway point. Last year, Urán had already won a stage and was emerging as a GC threat.

EF came to this Tour with a team fully committed to Urán. On Sunday, riders such as Sep Vanmarcke and Taylor Phinney sacrificed their chances to win the stage to help Urán. On Tuesday, the team did the best it could to keep Urán close as the GC favorites tested their collective mettle for the first time on the climbs.

“When you hit a stage like today on the back foot after a crash like that is not ideal,” said EF’s Simon Clarke. “Winning the Tour now is going to be a little more difficult.”

Urán was more impacted by Sunday’s crash than perhaps he wanted to admit. On Tuesday, as the speeds ramped up on the Tour’s first major climbs, pain in his back and over the rest of his body made keeping pace nearly impossible.

“It hurts, yes, my back, my knees, a little bit all over, and during the race, it’s not so easy to keep a high rhythm,” Urán said. “Today we really noted that. When it was a big group, it cost me a lot to stay there, so I was really feeling it out on the road.”

Urán vows to keep fighting, but everyone knows that Wednesday’s even more explosive climbing stage could see even more losses.

“The Tour de France isn’t easy. It isn’t meant to be easy,” Clarke said. “We’re fighting, and we’re going to keep fighting. All the way to Paris.”

Urán echoed the determination: “We are here until the final. We are not giving up.”

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Uran’s Tour chances dented on the cobbles

ROUBAIX, France (VN) — Rigoberto Urán very nearly made it into the Alps as one of the few Tour de France contenders to avoid major time losses in the opening road stages — but stage 9 to Roubaix wouldn’t let him off that easy.

The EF Education First-Drapac leader crashed on a stretch of cobbles around 30 kilometers from the finish. He ultimately came home 1:55 down on stage winner John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo), and 1:28 behind the main selection of GC riders that contained most of his rivals.

“My bike got hit from the back, and I had to change the bike. We did the best we could,” he said.

Urán was one of numerous GC favorites to run into trouble on the day. BMC’s Richie Porte was an early casualty and the worst off of the big names, crashing and abandoning the Tour before stage 9 reached the first cobbled sector. Sky’s Chris Froome and Movistar’s Mikel Landa also went down in crashes. Ag2r’s Romain Bardet, meanwhile, ran into mechanical issues multiple times during the afternoon.

Outside of Porte, however, Urán was the biggest loser of the day among the GC hopefuls. Froome was back in the peloton shortly after his crash. Bardet and Landa did both lose seven seconds due to a small late split, but they avoided catastrophe by rejoining the pack following sustained chase efforts.

Urán, on the other hand, spent the final 45 minutes in pursuit without closing down the gap, although not for lack of effort from him or his team.

Aware of the dangers it posed to the GC hopefuls — particularly the pint-sized climber-types — EF put significant effort into preparing for stage 9 and selected a team with a number of pavé powerhouses to help shepherd Urán through the day. That came in handy when the 31-year-old Colombian found himself off the back and staring at a sizable gap up to his rivals.

Familiar classics specialists Sep Vanmarcke, Taylor Phinney, and Tom Scully were soon at his side to form a team time trial squad on the cobbles.

“It was just all hands on deck to try to get him back and limit the time loss,” Scully said.

“Everyone was riding on [the limit]. That’s all we can do, just ride as hard as you can to get back at the front and hope to make it back there.”

Unlike the chasing Ag2r-Movistar group, the EF delegation was unable to put much of a dent in the gap to the other GC favorites in the early goings of the pursuit. As the kilometers ticked down towards the finish line in Roubaix, the classics stars began to gear up for the stage battle, injecting more pace at the front. Before long it became clear that Urán and Co. weren’t making up the necessary ground.

That said, the well-organized team effort did help keep Urán’s time loss at just under a minute and a half. A crash on the cobbles could just as easily have knocked Urán out of the race; instead, he comes away from stage 9 having lost about as much time as he did in the team time trial, which should be worth at least some consolation for EF (to go with the added bonus of Lawson Craddock managing to finish another stage of the race).

Heading into the first rest day of the Tour de France, Urán currently finds himself 2:53 down on yellow jersey Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), but significantly closer to the legitimate GC threats. He sits 1:11 behind Froome, Landa, and Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), and just three seconds behind compatriot Nairo Quintana (Movistar).

On the balance, considering the terrain of the first stretch of Tour stages and the chaos produced in the finales of nearly every day of the race so far, Urán isn’t in awful shape as the Tour makes its way towards the mountains.

As such, the three-time grand tour runner-up found himself in good spirits when speaking to the media Sunday. After showering off the Roubaix dust and having some road rash attended to by the team doctor, Urán came back off the team bus to greet a throng of Colombian fans that had been chanting his name for half an hour.

“Another Tour de France starts now,” he said. “We have both the Alps and the Pyrenees ahead of us. There’s a long way to go. The important thing is to recover and start fresh.”

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Protecting Urán: Textbook save by EF in Tour de France stage 4

Quick thinking, good teamwork, and hard effort helped save Rigoberto Urán from losing time after crash in stage 4 of Tour de France.

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EF team time trial performance ‘absolutely’ a win

Rigoberto Uran’s EF Education First-Drapac team delivers a solid sixth-place result to keep him in touch on Tour GC.

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Uran racing with Tour target on his back

One year after finishing second, Rigoberto Urán is a legitimate contender to win the yellow jersey.

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Uran leads EF at Tour; Rolland, Phinney among his helpers

The American-registered team confirmed its Tour de France lineup on Thursday, and it’s clear the squad is racing to win.

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