Rigoberto Uran and Cannondale-Drapac have a simple and effective strategy as they prepare to fight for victory at the Tour de France. The rider and team employed the same laidback but focused strategy when Ryder Hesjedal took victory in the final stage of the 2012 Giro d'Italia.
Uran's manta is: "tranquilo, todos van bien" – "relax, everything is going well." He is combining that philosophy with the form of his life as he fights for every second until the Tour de France ends in Paris on Sunday evening. The Colombian media chase every word their riders utter, and with Nairo Quintana's star fading fast this year; they are chasing Uran at every stage start and finish. Yet Uran refuses to get caught up in any hype and inflated expectations.
When the Colombian camera crews try to stop him on the way to the sign-on podium, he keeps moving. He answers their questions but without ever taking himself seriously. He's having fun and has his feet on the ground while somehow trying to win the Tour de France.
He was equally as relaxed on the second rest day in Le Puy-en-Velay.
"I don't have secrets. I'm very tranquilo. What happens, happens. If I finish on the podium, it'd be great," he said.
"I'm pretty well placed and I feel good. It's true I'm only a few seconds back, but we've still got to go over the Alps and then there's the time trial in Marseille. We'll see what happens."
At 30, Uran is a seasoned Grand Tour rider. This is his 14th and he finished second in the 2013 and 2014 Giro d'Italias when riding for Team Sky and Omega-Pharma. He finished seventh in last year's Giro d'Italia, sparking some to suggest he was past his best. In truth, he fought to finish in Milan despite suffering a nasty bought of bronchitis.
Focusing on the Tour, connecting with Phinney
This season the Cannondale-Drapac team have given Uran the freedom to target the Tour de France and the liberty to carefully prepare for the race as he feels best. The attitude inside the Cannondale-Drapac is one of calm and confidence, helping Uran.
"He told me he meditates. We can connect on that level," Taylor Phinney revealed to Cyclingnews.
"I haven't seen a lot of the bike race in the mountains, but from what I understand he's doing an amazing race. We believe in him and he seems to believe in himself."
The battle for this year's Tour de France is considered a four-way tussle.
Chris Froome is arguably the favourite going into the final week. He has an incredible Team Sky squad to help him in the Alps and will gain precious seconds on his rival's time trial ability for next Saturday's 22.5km test in Marseille. Uran is fourth overall, 29 seconds behind Fabio Aru (Astana) and Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale), but Froome named him as his biggest threat due to his respected time trail ability.
"The last week of a Grand Tour is usually about who goes backwards rather than who goes forwards," Cannondale-Drapac director Charly Wegelius recently pointed out to Cyclingnews.
The Tour de France has never had four riders so close after 15 stages, and especially entering the final week of racing.
"At the moment it's very close, and it'll stay like that until someone lands a knockout punch," Wegelius said. "There are some pretty big hills between now and the time trial, so plenty can happen. I think it's going to be a very interesting race right to the end, for everyone and especially for Rigoberto and us."
Froome wears the yellow jersey, but Phinney is convinced it is within Uran's reach.
"Rigo is not that far off the yellow jersey," he said. "It's in the back of our minds, but we're not obsessed about it. But yellow is there for us to take."