Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) confirmed the prediction of Chris Froome that he is the Sky rider's most dangerous rival for overall victory in the Tour de France, putting in another faultless and confident ride over the Col du Galibier to Serre Chevalier.
Uran was consistently able to respond to the attacks and accelerations by Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and Froome on the Col du Galibier and then sprinted smartly to take second place on the stage and so sweep up the six-second-time bonus. With Fabio Aru (Astana) distanced on the Col du Galibier and losing 31 seconds at the finish, Uran did enough to move up from fourth to second place overall, 27 seconds behind Chris Froome.
Bardet is also at 27 seconds and seemed irritated by Uran sprinting for the time bonus after refusing to give his all on the descent, as the leading quartet gained time on Aru.
Uran was selected for anti-doping and rode straight into the protected area just past the finish line, managing to give the Colombian television and radio journalists the slip to be first in line for the anti-doping control. The Colombian media focused on grabbing Darwin Atapuma and Nairo Quintana but soon returned to the anti-doping area. When Uran emerged they submerged him with microphones and questions. With Quintana totally out of contention and finishing minutes off the pace yet again, Uran is the Colombian hero of this year's Tour de France. Asking Uran a question was a matter of life or death. It seemed that whole nation wanted to hear his words.
As ever, Uran seemed amused by it all. Despite huge expectations for him to finish on the final podium in Paris and even topple Froome to become the first Colombian to ever win the Tour de France, Uran remains 'tranquilo'.
"I'm very happy. I think I had a great stage. It would have been great to win but it was important to distance a strong rider like Aru in the finale. It was a good day for me and the team," he said, keen to leave after answering one question.
There was no way the Colombian media were going to let him go so quickly and they barraged him with more questions all at once.
"We're in the third week of the Tour de France, so everyone is tired," he rebutted after being asked if he is feeling stronger now the Tour de France is in the Alps.
"Team Sky has got a strong team and so they're controlling the race, so we can only ride carefully. I'm happy."
At this point, a radio journalist finally managed to go live on air and shouted out that Uran was second overall. But another asked about tomorrow's final mountain stage to the summit of Col d'Izoard. Uran reacted as quickly as he did during the attacks on the Col del a Galibier and in the sprint for the time bonuses. He ignored the loaded question about being second overall and went for the easier option about Thursday's stage, knowing he could perhaps fight his way away from the media and ride to the Cannondale-Drapac hotel.
"Tomorrow we've got a mountain finish and it's pretty high up, too," Uran pointed out, tongue in cheek, clearly having fun. "It's hard. I'm second in the overall classification. I'm optimistic that things will go well."
With that Uran let out several exclamations of 'Gracias!' and pushed on his pedal in search of freedom. Two journalists tried to ask further questions but he was away and not stopping again. He pulled on the shoulder of Cannondale-Drapac head of Communications Matthew Beaudin so he could put his other foot in the pedal and was quickly free from the Colombian media scrum.
It was his only real attack of the day but he and Cannondale-Drapac could celebrate another successful day in their hotel.
Uran is no longer an outsider, a dark horse, or just a podium contender. He has bona fide shot at victory in the Tour de France if he can distance Froome on the climb to the finish on the Col d'Izoard and then ride a strong time trial in Marseille on Saturday.
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.