Team Sky riders remained well-positioned in the overall battle at the Tour Colombia 2.1 after stage 2 on Wednesday, with two more relatively flat stages on Thursday and Friday before the GC battle begins in earnest on stages 5 and 6 across the weekend.
Chris Froome, Egan Bernal and Ivan Sosa are all 12 seconds back after finishing third in the opening team time trial on Tuesday and finishing with the bunch, with Wednesday's sprint finish to stage 2 taken by Deceuninck-QuickStep's Alvaro Hodeg.
With a team of climbers waiting for the mountains at the end of the week, Team Sky's leaders will spend the next two stages staying safe in the bunch and keeping their powder dry for the big efforts to come.
"We've got Egan, and Ivan Sosa as well, so we just need to use the other teams a bit, hide as much as possible and save energy," Team Sky assistant director Oliver Cookson told Cyclingnews before the start of stage 2. "Medellin was incredibly special with all the people, but it's nice to be a bit higher up now, where the air's a bit fresher, shall we say."
Although the final day of the Tour Colombia 2.1 finishes with the 15.5km final climb up Alto las Palmas, the stage 5 circuit outside of La Union starts and finishes at 2,476m above sea level.
The peloton will ride from the city of La Union to the circuit near La Ceja, where the riders will do four circuits before heading back to La Union for the finish. It's a tenaciously lumpy circuit at altitude, and it could easily blow the overall classification apart.
"The circuits on stage 5 before La Union are going to be very grippy," Cookson said. "It's going to be lined out all day. Let's hope it doesn't also rain."
Cookson said he expects a race of attrition on stage 5, with riders getting popped out of the back all day.
"I think we'll just be ready for all the options and scenarios," he said. "Maybe the other teams want to make it harder earlier and things like that. Stage 5 is definitely a key stage as well, not just the final stage to Las Palmas."
Team Sky has the defending champion in Bernal and last year's Oro y Paz sixth-place finisher in Sosa, who was riding for Androni Giacattoli at the time. It's not clear what Froome's goals are for the race, other than surviving, as he said in the pre-race press conference, but he also said the goal is to keep the title in the team, without specifically naming which rider the team wants to take this year's title.
Cookson told Cyclingnews that decision will likely play out on the roads once the GC battle begins.
"It's all about communication on the road and working together as a team," he said. "I think it's very easy to just say, 'Right, you're the leader,' and then two days later it can be different. So I think the most important thing is to keep the whole team in a good position, and then good communication with the DS and those guys on the road communicating, as always."
Before any of those decisions need to be made, the peloton will race the 167.6km third stage in Llanogrande on Thursday and a 144km circuit race in Medellin on Friday.
Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake before studying English and journalism at the University of Oregon. He has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon.
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