Despite having last year's Colombia Oro y Paz third-place rider on the 2019 Tour Colombia 2.1 roster in Rigoberto Urán, 22-year-old Colombian Daniel Martínez will lead EF Education First at the upcoming race, which starts Tuesday with a team time trial in Medellin.
"This year Rigo's preparation is going a little bit slower than last year," team director Juanma Garate said in a statement released with the team's roster announcement.
"Last year he was competitive, he won a stage, but this year we are going more easy with him. Our man for the final result is going to be Dani [Martínez]. Rigo will help Dani."
Martínez, who finished third overall last year at the Tour of California, was fifth at the 2018 Oro y Paz in his first year with the team, and he most resently won the Colombian time trial title on February 1.
"Working with Daniel Martínez is something really special," Urán said. "He has a lot of talent and really wants to learn. Last year in various races, in the Tour and at the end of the season, I had the opportunity to race beside him, and he's spectacular."
Urán and Martínez will be supported in the six-day race by Americans Nate Brown, Lawson Craddock, Alex Howes and Taylor Phinney, completing the six-rider roster.
Brown, who competed in last year's Colombia Oro y Paz said he is excited to get his 2019 season rolling, especially in Colombia.
"Best race ever," Brown said of Oro y Paz. "I think it's almost bigger down there than the Tour. It's unreal the passion, and having Rigo on the team took it to the next level."
With Craddock, Phinney and Martínez on the roster, Garate is hoping for a top result in the opening team time trial to set the squad up for the rest of the week.
"It's 14km and flat, and that's why we have the roster we have with riders like Taylor and Lawson," Garate said. "It's going to be super important at the end of the race, how strong we can ride the first stage. If we gain or lose some seconds that will be what either makes the race difficult or easy to win the general classification."
The GC goal will be a tough nut to crack for the team, given the list of potential GC contenders that includes 2018 Oro y Paz champion Egan Bernal and his Team Sky teammates Chris Froome and newcomer Ivan Sosa. Oro y Paz runner-up Nairo Quintana will be on hand with Movistar, which recently won the Vuelta a San Juan with Winner Anacona. UAE Team Emirates will feature Sergio Henao, who was fourth overall last year with Team Sky. Nevertheless, Martínez says he's eagerly anticipating the challenge.
"This year there are some really high level rivals coming to race," he said. "I hope to be on great form too."
EF Education First for Tour Colombia 2.1: Nate Brown, Lawson Craddock, Alex Howes, Daniel Martínez, Taylor Phinney, Rigoberto Urán
Tour Colombia 2.1 stages:
Stage 1 - 14km TTT - Medellín - February 12
Stage 2 - 150.5km - La Ceja to La Ceja - February 13
Stage 3 - 167km - Llanogrande to Llanogrand - February
Stage 4 - 144km - Medellín to Medellín - February
Stage 5 - 176.8km - La Unión to La Unión - February 16
Stage 6 - 173.5km - El Retiro to Alto de Palmas - February 17
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