The name of Jarlinson Pantano popped up among the favourites for the 18th Santos Tour Down Under after Orica-GreenEdge's sport director Matt White indicated that Esteban Chaves sent him a warning from Colombia about the outstanding form of his compatriot.
"Esteban and I are friends but we didn't train together this year, only last year we did, so I'm not sure what his comments are based on", Pantano reacted. "Maybe he thinks I'm going well because I won the first race of the year on the Colombian calendar, El circuito de la feria di Manizales, on January 3, there were a few Continental teams there and also Janier Acevedo who was with Cannondale last year but I was the only World Tour rider."
"I'm originally from Cali but Manizales in the department of Caldas is the place where I've been staying and training recently, about 300km away," the IAM Cycling rider continued. "I stay with my brother, 2100 metres above sea level, and I train with Carlos Quintero who was the king of the mountains at Tirreno-Adriatico last year.
"I've had a complete break of 25 days after Il Lombardia, I've had a good preparation of the 2016 season since November 1. I'm hoping to go better than last year," he added. "I've had a pretty good season for my first year in the World Tour [19th overall at the Tour de France, second in stage 2 of the Tour de Romandie, 11th at the Volta Catalunya] but I'm yet to win a big race and that's what I want to do this year, starting with the Tour Down Under."
Locals from Orica-GreenEdge also remember that Pantano was ninth overall in Australia's only World Tour event last year. "I've asked my team to send me here again," he said. "I hope to be racing at the front in the hardest stages like one year ago. The course suits me. It's a personal goal to make the top five overall. But it's a difficult race with so many riders who want to win: Simon Gerrans, Sergio Henao, Julian Arredondo, Rohan Dennis, Richie Porte…
"The hills are a bit too short for us, Colombians, they actually suit Henao better. He's got a lot of power. Julian [Arredondo] and him have performed at Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège before. It's a bit similar here with some ups and downs every day. In my second year racing in the World Tour, I have to learn to ride a bit more at the front. I'm happy doing this job. I don't speak English but I still get treated like a family member in this team. In Europe, I now live in Palma de Mallorca nearby my team-mate Vicente Reynes. All the teams go training there so it must be a good place for cycling."