Restrepo looks to seize more opportunities in 2018

Katusha rider to target Tour Down Under with Haas

Nairo Quintana, Rigoberto Uran and Fernando Gaviria understandably dominate the headlines when it comes to Colombian riders in the WorldTour but Jhonatan Restrepo has been quietly building a solid reputation for himself at Katusha-Alpecin.

Signed as a neo-pro in 2016, the quick-finishing 23-year-old has not yet won a race on the WorldTour but there are signs of encouragement after a promising start to the season in 2017. Although his campaign was disrupted by injury the softly-spoken Colombian has big plans for next year, including a shot at glory in the Tour Down Under.

"I had a season of two halves," he told Cyclingnews at Katusha's recent training camp in Mallorca, Spain.

Restrepo finished tenth overall in the Tour Down Under in January and picked up the best young rider's jersey for his efforts. That performance was backed up by fourth in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and upon his return to Europe he claimed second place behind the unstoppable Alejandro Valverde in the Tour of Murcia.

Although Restrepo went slightly off the boil after that, he returned in July at the Tour of Austria with plans on another GC assault. A top-15 result in the prologue was promising enough but on stage 2 he crashed out with a broken collarbone.

He returned to action in August but lingering issues with his back saw him pull up in almost every race.

"The first part was really good but after my crash and my broken collarbone it was awful. I started well in Australia with top ten and then second behind Valverde in Murcia but after the crash I had problems with my weight. I couldn't get it back on track but the year as a whole was a great experience," he said.

"I was top 15 in the prologue and then was in the top ten overall after the first road stage. I think that I could have taken the jersey but then I had the crash and my problems started."

While his collarbone healed successfully his back continued to be an issue and according to the Colombian a fix wasn't found until the season had come to an end with another DNF in Il Lombardia.

"The main problem was back pain. I'd return to training and go and do three hours but every time I rode I had this nagging pain in my lower back. After my last race I went for a check up and now I have it fixed with treatment."

Katusha have signed a raft of new riders in 2018 including Marcel Kittel, Alex Dowsett and Nathan Haas. Restrepo still has room to improve as a rider but he believes that he will also have opportunities on the road to ride for himself. He is currently a reserve for the Giro d'Italia and although the Tour de France is not on his schedule, a return to the Vuelta a España in late summer certainly is.

"I'm going to start again in Australia. We have Nathan and me and we're going to try and win the GC. After that it's a fairly similar programme but I'll also do Strade Bianche. Then I'll come back to Colombia, have some rest and then start again and build for July. At the moment I'm a reserve for the Giro but the main plan is that I do the Vuelta and that will be my second Grand Tour after riding that race in 2016."

Katusha seems like the right fit for Restrepo, who trains with the Henaos and Rigoberto Uran when he's back home in his native Colombia. He famously made contact with the team via Facebook and hasn't looked back since signing with them in 2015 as a stagiaire.

"Katusha showed confidence in me and they feel like a family. They've helped me learn English and because I have a lot of time spare, I'm always reading books and learning on my phone. There were other teams in terms of options but it was better to continue here. I've got confidence here and I want to try and win here and maybe become more of a leader. We have Kittel and Zakarkin but there are many races we can try and win so there’s plenty of chances."

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