Cannondale Pro Cycling’s Rigoberto Urán says he is prepared to be in the thick of the Giro d’Italia action this weekend where two very difficult stages could see the Colombian hit new heights in the general classification.
Currently tenth overall at 51 seconds behind race leader Tom Dumoulin, Urán rode impressively on the stage 6 summit finish at Roccaraso, finishing eighth after a driving late counter-attack that netted him a handful of seconds on top rivals Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Mikel Landa (Sky) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
Although his climbing condition is clearly good, it’s Uran’s time trialling potential, which with stage 9's 40.5 kilometre chrono through the rolling hills of Chianti on Sunday, is arguably of most interest right now. Given his superb ride in the Barolo time trial of the 2014 Giro d’Italia; winning the stage and moving into the overall lead for four days, the Colombian’s performance on Sunday in very similar terrain and distance could well be key to his final overall result in Turin.
Before that, though, Saturday’s 186 kilometre stage 8 from Foligno to Arezzo features a tricky second category climb of Alpe di Poti in its finale: the climb features 6.5 kilometres of gravel roads as well as some steep ramps reaching up to 14 per cent at one point. With the summit 18.4 kilometres from the finish in Arezzo, the twisting, difficult descent then flattens out, prior to an tough, technical little uphill climb in the last kilometre including one 11 per cent section inside the old city walls.
Urán has done his homework for both stages, say Cannondale Pro Cycling staff. Earlier this year, Urán checked out both the finale of stage 8, riding over the second category ascent twice, and also the time trial in Chianti on Sunday.
“It was a hard stage, but I’m doing fine,” Urán, the Giro runner-up overall in 2013 and 2014, told Cyclingnews after coming through stage 7 to Foligno without incident. “Overall I am very pleased with the way I was climbing and that’s good for my morale before stage 8, where there’s sure to be a big fight on that last ascent. The really important stage, though, will be Sunday’s time trial."
Cannondale sports director Fabrizio Guidi told Cyclingnews, “So far we’ve been racing fairly defensively in general but I have to say Rigo’ did a very good ascent of Roccaraso on stage 6. He calculated his energy very well, waiting until exactly the right moment to accelerate. He’s feeling very confident.
“Saturday will be a very difficult stage, with a lot of fighting on that final climb. Rigo’ rode over it twice, so he knows what to expect. The first part is difficult, above all, because it starts on very narrow roads and so there will be a big battle to be well-positioned.
“Then the climb really gets underway, the first two kilometres are hard, after which it levels out, but that’s when it gets on the gravel roads and it’ll be difficult for riders to get past each other, you’ll need to be in front. The first part of the descent is fast, technical and narrow, the second half is a lot more straightforward.”
What could turn an already challenging finale into something even more daunting will be if it rains, as is currently forecast. “It won’t be impossible to ride up, but it’ll be much harder on those off-roads. It’ll depend on if the roads turn very muddy or if the going under the bikes is still hard.”
As for the Chianti time trial on Sunday, “Rigo knows the roads well, it’s important like every Grand Tour time trial is important and a long time trial like this can’t be under-estimated, you can make a difference there.”
But Guidi feels that won’t be where Urán has his last chance to impact on the Giro d’Italia. “This time trial is important for him, but he’ll be good on the climbs on the stage afterwards, too.”
In 2013, one of the foundations of Urán’s second place overall in the Giro d’Italia was not so much his time trialling, but when he won at the summit finish of Altopiano de Montasio. After Chianti, Alpi di Susi mountainous time trial on stage 15, therefore, could be another great opportunity for Urán to shine again.
First up, though, is a tough weekend of racing in central Italy.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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