Rigoberto Urán says that he will not be taking part in the Vuelta a España in a pure support role for Sergio Henao - named by Team Sky as their leader for the race – but will be prepared to strike a blow for his own general classification options, too.
Urán took a breakthrough result in the 2013 Giro d'Italia, securing Colombia's first ever podium finish in the Italian Grand Tour and his best-ever GC result, as well as a mountain-top stage win. Together with Nibali and Joaquim Rodriguez, he is the third rider already with a top three Grand Tour podium finish in 2013 present in La Vuelta 2013.
In Sky's press release for the Vuelta, Urán's mission goals are described as "riding in support of Henao this time around, but [he] is more than capable of challenging for top honours again, should the need arise."
Second only to Vincenzo Nibali in the Giro, Urán certainly doesn't seem prepared to see those potential opportunities pass him by, telling Cyclingnews, "I had a good rest after the Giro and now I'm here, in good shape. I'm no fan of doing the Tour and Vuelta, but this Giro-Vuelta double" - which he already did in 2012, when he finished as Best Young Rider in Italy then worked for Froome in the Vuelta - "is a combination I like."
"We've got Sergio Henao as race leader, but I think it's better to have two riders for the general classification, that way we've got more options when it comes to attacking and so on.
"The second stage [with the mountain top finish of Monte da Groba] will show clearly who the riders are who are in contention."
"I respect him and I will help and support him. But I'll be there, close to him, and it's one thing to talk here about what you will do in a race and another what happens when you're really there. So we'll see what happens." Asked if Henao could win the race, Urán believes it's possible: "He's got the talent, and strength, to do so and he's come here rested. I think he can."
Urán, due to move onto Omega Pharma-Quick Step next year, says his last Grand Tour with the British team "will be similar [at Sky] to the Giro, except this time we've got Sergio as leader" - rather than Wiggins.
While Vasil Kiryienka and Edvald Boasson Hagen both rode the Tour - though neither man made it to Paris - and are now also present in the Vuelta for Sky, two thirds of the team raced the Giro: Urán, Henao, Dario Cataldo - a stage winner in last year's Vuelta - the Giro's early race leader Salvatore Puccio, Xabier Zandio of Spain and Germany's Christian Knees. Briton Luke Rowe, riding his first Grand Tour, completes the nine-man squad.
After the Giro, Urán went to Colombia, saw his family and trained and rested at altitude, then on his return to Europe raced in the Tour of Poland - "which was very hard" - and finally checked out some of the Pyrenean stages of the Vuelta.
"I wanted to get a bit of a rest because I've been training and racing hard and I have been all over the place this year, so I didn't do the Vuelta a Burgos.
"It's also a very hard Vuelta, I've checked out quite a lot of it so I know, and particularly when you add in the 2,300 kilometres of transfers we've got to the racing itself, that's a whole lot of time spent travelling." He brushes off the idea of "easy stages" saying "those are often the most dangerous ones, where you risk losing a lot of time."
For the team time trial - which Sky won at the Giro - Urán rates their chances, but not highly. "We've got good time triallists, but we're lacking Wiggins, who's really strong for that sort of event. We've seen the route and it's not overly technical and in the last part [is so fast] you're going to get fed up with pedalling. I think if we get a top three result and don't lose time, we'll be pleased."
Urán's options in the Vuelta may be limited by Henao, but he is confident that he will have a better chance of going for the big stage races in Omega Pharma-Quick Step. "We were close to an agreement with Sky and it didn't happen, but while they've already got loads of GC riders at Sky, I'll be filling a bit of a gap there at Omega." In the Vuelta, though, Urán could help the British team take their third Grand Tour podium finish of 2013 before he heads to Belgium in 2014.
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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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