'Papa' Uran guardedly optimistic on Tour de France prospects

Double Giro runner-up lying fourth as race heads into the Pyrenees

When Rigoberto Urán came off the Cannondale-Drapac team bus after stage 11 of the Tour de France into Pau, upward of a dozen of Colombian fans were waiting to greet him.

Many of them were wearing 'Arriba Boyacá y Nairo' T-shirts in favour of Quintana, whose Movistar bus was conveniently parked next to Cannondale-Drapac's  on a leafy boulevard. But the yells of "Rigo! Rigo! Rigo!" and cries of 'Una foto, por favor, Rigo!' as the small group of fans edged in towards the barriers in front of the Cannondale-Drapac bus showed how much popularity the 2012 Olympic silver medallist also enjoys.

Urán's popularity is understandable and not just because he is only too happy to pose for the fans' photos and scrawl his autograph on notebooks and race guides. For now, too, Urán is the best-placed Colombian in the Tour, lying fourth overall after a spectacular stage win in Chambéry. Quintana, while with an unquestionably better palmares in Grand Tours, is currently much further down on GC, in eighth place at 2:13, and is yet to shine on the same level.

Requested in the slightly breathlessly starstruck tones so beloved of Colombian TV journalists if he could tell the folks back home about stage 12, "with six classified climbs, papa" – 'Dad', which apart from being the word for father, of course, is a word Colombians also like to use as a term of general affection – Papa Urán readily agreed.

"Of course tomorrow will be a very tough stage. It's nearly 220 kilometres long, and has a summit finish," Urán said. "The idea is to be up there and let's see how I get on, but that's certainly the idea. I have a lot of respect for the race, the route and for my rivals. But now I've won a stage, of course I feel a bit more confident about what I can do, too."

He was not surprised, he said, at Chris Froome's unwillingness to let him attack.

"How is he going to do that when I'm at less than a minute on the overall?" he asked rhetorically, and the yells of 'Rigo, Rigo' grew ever louder. "I'm very close, but they [Sky] have got a very strong team, too, and they've always got three or four riders round Froome when they get to the climbs and there's only 10 riders left. So let’s see what happens tomorrow."

Urán believes, though, that the differences between one top rider and the next are minimal – and that observation presumably counts between himself and his former teammate at Sky, too. But it was put to him that Urán's hitting the top level in the Tour has caught a few people by surprise.

"The team knew that I'd been training well and building well for this race," he said. "I've had a couple of lean years, and some people were saying I should retire, but we're still young, going well, and we're still here."

Asked how he looked at his chances in the stage and in the Tour in general, Urán reminded his interviewers that the victory is at the end of three weeks, not on Thursday.

"It's a hard stage tomorrow, but here in the Tour I've learned you can't take anything for granted."

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