Uran bounces back in Giro d'Italia

The Etixx-Quick Step management are quietly optimistic that Rigoberto Urán is finally beginning to shake off his cold that saw the Colombian lose time in the first week of the Giro d’Italia and that he will now be able to start to claw his way back up the overall classification.

Crucially, Urán was able to stay with the mini-peloton containing Fabio Aru (Astana) and his teammate Dario Cataldo, Richie Porte (Team Sky) and race leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) when the race shattered under the pressure of the Astana attacks on the Campitello Matese on stage eight.

This contrasted sharply with the Colombian’s below-expectations performance in the opening mountain stages and although Etixx-Quick Step sports director Jan Schaffrath warns that Urán is not out of the woods completely health-wise, he views it as a step in the right direction.

“It’s been a very full-on first week, which is very exciting for the public and the television, nobody saved their legs, it’s been full gas, specially for the favourites” Schaffrath told Cyclingnews at the start of stage nine. “Nobody’s waiting for the last week, and for some people, especially the sprinters, it’s not so nice. But it’s exciting.”

That Urán could hold his own in such hard fighting on stage eight was encouraging for the Colombian, but Schaffrath warns that “first we have to see how he goes today [Sunday] and then again we have see after the rest day, how he has recovered, specially after such a hard first week. Then we’ll start thinking about the [stage 14] time trial. That’s the first big point.”

Urán won the Giro d’Italia time trial last year, taking the lead, before losing it again in the final week to Nairo Quintana. And Etixx-Quick Step recognise that particularly after such a difficult first week for their GC rider, it will be crucial for his overall performance.

Urán has already been to check out the time trial over the winter. “It’s got two very different parts, the first part is really flat and then the last part is a lot more lumpy so we have to calculate our power very well. You can risk losing too much power early on and then not have enough in the final, it’s not easy to calculate.”

“The big hope is the time trial. I don’t know if it’s possible to jump into the top three or the top five overall, we’ll just have to see. At this moment we’re not saying any big goal like ‘we’re going to win the Giro’. We have to take it day by day because it was such a hard first week, but yesterday [Saturday] was the first day that he was more optimistic.”

Urán came to the Giro d’Italia with a cold he picked up at the Tour of Romandie, where it was rainy and cold in the last part of the race. But team staff report that he has now stopped taking anti-biotics and is on the mend.

“Day by day he’s getting better, we’re crossing our fingers that he stays like this,” Schaffrath told Cyclingnews.

“All of the stages were hard [for Urán] but one of the hardest day was stage seven, it was so long [264 kilometres] and it wasn’t easy to stay focussed, there were strong cross-winds all day. It was not the best.” Schaffrath comments.

Schaffrath argues that “For sure it’s not so easy to control the first week because it’s so hard. Some teams are working so hard in this first week that they may well ending up paying in the third.”

Without specifically naming any teams, Astana, who have been going flat out on most of the mountainous and hilly stages, could be one of those cases. Meanwhile, Etixx-Quick Step are hoping that Urán is heading in the opposite direction. 

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, 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. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.