Chris Froome will begin his 2019 season in Colombia, confirming his presence in the Tour Colombia, which was run for the first time this year under the name Colombia Oro y Paz. New world champion Alejandro Valverde is also provisionally down to ride the six-stage mid-February race.
Froome's participation has been on the cards for a number of months, and even during this year's race the Colombian Cycling Federation were talking up their hopes of landing the four-time Tour de France winner for the race's second edition.
Froome recently visited Colombia to take part in Rigoberto Urán's mass-participation ride 'Giro de Rigo', and while he was there he paid a visit to the Federation to confirm his presence.
"Hello friends," Froome said in Spanish in a video message. "I'm very happy to confirm my participation in the Tour Colombia, where I'll begin my 2019 season. Many thanks to the Colombian Cycling Federation for the invitation. See you soon."
Froome has traditionally opted for a February start to his seasons. This year he began at the Ruta del Sol in Spain, as he did in 2016, while in the two intervening years he was in Australia for the Herald Sun Tour. Froome won the Giro d'Italia this year before finishing third at the Tour behind teammate Geraint Thomas, but he's expected to focus squarely on the Tour in 2019 in a bid to land a record-equalling fifth title.
The inaugural edition of the Tour Colombia - the first international professional race in the country - was considered a big success. While the likes of Fernando Gaviria, Nairo Quintana, Egan Bernal, Rigoberto Urán put on a dramatic show in front of huge crowds, the organisers are hoping to attract more big names from outside of Colombia for the second edition.
As well as Froome, world champion Alejandro Valverde is also set to compete, though his participation has yet to be formally announced. In recent years the Spaniard has kicked off his campaigns in Spain at the end of January at the Challenge Mallorca series, so Colombia could be his second outing of 2019. The organisers are also hoping to tempt Vincenzo Nibali and his Bahrain-Merida team over.
The inaugural edition of the Tour Colombia - run as the Oro y Paz - was won by Froome's Sky teammate Egan Bernal, with three sprint stages followed by three days in the hills. The 2019 edition will take place in the Antioquia region of central Colombia and will dip into the hills around Medellin, with a summit finish at Las Palmas at 2,500 metres on the cards.