Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale) is going all out this year for the Giro d’Italia. The Giro has always been good to Uran and after being the bridesmaid twice, he says that this year could be his best chance to win the corsa rosa.
Uran made his breakthrough as a Grand Tour rider at the 2012 Giro when he finished seventh overall. He stepped up the following season when his team leader Bradley Wiggins abandoned and went on to take second place behind Vincenzo Nibali. He was the runner-up in 2014 again, this time behind his compatriot Nairo Quintana.
“I’ve been second twice and this year I want to take victory,” Uran told Cyclingnews. “Every year is special because every year I train to win. Sometimes it’s not possible because that’s cycling. This year it is good. I’m happy with my preparation.
“It’s important to be on the podium or in the top 5 because it’s a big race but I’ve been second twice, and now I think it is the best opportunity to win this race.”
The only blot on Uran’s Giro copybook in recent years was his 14th place at last year’s race, something he partly puts down to a lack of support in the mountains. He hopes that the backing of a more balanced Cannondale squad will see that right. Alongside Uran at this year’s race will be young climbers Joe Dombrowski and Davide Formolo, as well as experienced hand Andre Cardoso.
“I’m happy because the team is really strong on both the climbs and the flat. We have four guys who are strong on the climbs and then three who are strong on the flat, and this is a good combination,” explained Uran. “Etixx was a good team, and they were really strong but for the climbs they didn’t have that many climbers. There was only really [Gianluca] Brambilla last year, and he crashed at Liege and didn’t ride the Giro.
“Last year, I remember when we started the climbs everyone was dropped because Etixx had big riders who were good for the Classics and they were strong in the team time trial. You need more people. Here I’ve got Cardoso, Formolo… there are more riders who are strong in the climbs. It is important in a Grand Tour. The third week is the most important thing because that’s when the big mountains come. You need support and people close to you.”
Uran is the sort of rider that can go with the flow and he has slotted into the team with relative ease. When asked by Cyclingnews what were the reasons behind his decision for moving to Cannondale, he says in a matter-of-fact manner: “I finished my contract with Etixx, and I wanted to change. In this team, I knew I could be a leader for a big Tour.”
His build-up to the Giro d’Italia has been solid if relatively uneventful, with a crash during the team time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico the only mishap. He appeared to be riding towards some form with 10th place at the Volta a Catalunya before heading to Tenerife for an altitude training camp. Traditionally, Uran has gone home to Colombia for his altitude training camp, as he lives at the same height as Mount Teide, at 2,500m.
However, a lack of time between Catalunya and Romandie and the desire to avoid constantly switching time zones led him to eschew that in search of an ideal preparation for the Giro d’Italia.
“It’s several hours’ difference and every year it is more and more difficult. Too much travel to America is confusing my body. The time in the plane, the food, it’s just too much. This year, I preferred to stay here and train to prepare for the Giro.”
Uran’s final preparation race for the Giro d’Italia is the Tour de Romandie where he currently lies 16th, just over two minutes down in the overall classification.
After the Giro d’Italia, Uran’s focus will turn to his second major target of the season, the Olympic Games. Uran will ride both the time trial and the road race, but it is the latter where his heart really lies. The Olympics are another event where Uran has come close to victory but not quite managed it. In 2012, he escaped up the road with Alexandre Vinokourov, before being beaten in the final sprint to the line. Uran’s silver medal was a little unexpected with the route not favourable towards the climbers but this year is different.
“The Olympics this year is special because the parcours is different. It’s for climbers and the time trial is not flat. Colombia this year has a very strong team, for me, it is the best team for the Olympics. The parcours is nice; it’s really difficult which is good for me, Quintana, for Chaves…”
In the lead-up to the Olympic Games, Uran is going to take a lengthy break in Colombia after the Giro before riding the Tour de Pologne. The one-day Clasica San Sebastian will follow before he goes back to South America for the Olympics. His road to Rio is different to that of many of the big favourites, with the majority choosing the Tour de France as their final race – including fellow Giro d’Italia riders Nibali and Alejandro Valverde – but it is tried and tested for Uran and he’s happy with his choice.
“For me, I didn’t have the Tour de France last time,” he said. “I had the same programme, Poland, and the Olympics. Sometimes it’s good that you go to the Tour and then the Olympics but for me, it is not possible because I’m going to the Giro. Last year I tried the Giro and the Tour, and it was too much. It’s not possible to do that for preparation for the Olympic Games. For me it is good preparation. I tried it in 2012, and it worked.”