For the third year running, former under 23 world champion Fabio Duarte (Colombia) is back at the Giro d'Italia and - after last year’s collective spectacular performance by the Colombians - Duarte knows that the bar is steadily rising for his nation at the Giro. He hopes, needless to say, to continue that tendency.
In 2013, Rigoberto Urán netted Colombia’s first ever podium finish in the Giro d’Italia, as well as taking a mountain top stage win, whilst compatriot Carlos Alberto Betancur (AG2R La Mondiale) was crowned as the Giro’s best young rider.
Second himself last year at Tre Cime di Lavaredo’s blizzard-struck mountain top finish behind Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Duarte says that with better form than in 2013, as well as greater experience, he is looking for his first stage win in the Giro this year.
“I think the level of Colombian cycling is improving again in general this year and that’s also true for my team,” Duarte told Cyclingnews. “My preparation for this year’s race is much better and I am sure I can perform well.”
After Colombia took 18th in the opening team time trial - arguably the stage which favoured the Pro Continental squad the least in the entire race - overall Duarte is now lying 1:37 back on Giro leader Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge).
“My big goals are the GC and to try and take some stages: the Zoncolan [stage 20] and the Montecampione [stage 15], which is the closest to our European base, are the ones that I’d really like to get.”
“Generally the first week is my worst and the third week is my best in a Grand Tour. Last year I got fifth in the Galibier as well as second at Tre Cime. So I’m aiming to hit top condition in the last part of the race.”
The leader at Colombia for the Giro for the GC as well, Duarte has come through the Irish stages in good shape, saying “I came into this Giro feeling the best of the three I’ve started. The first week is always very nervous, it’s just a question of staying out of trouble, but it’s the third that I’m most interested in, anyway.”