The five-day UCI 2.1 race begins Wednesday in Portugal with a 163.6km stage from Lagos to Albufeira and concludes Sunday atop Alto do Malhao.
Uran signed with Cannondale in the off-season after spending two years with Belgian outfit Etixx-Quickstep, with whom he won the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec in September, his only win of 2015. His last race was at the Richmond World Championships, where he placed 32nd in the road race and 51st in the individual time trial. He was also part of Etixx-Quickstep's runner-up team time trial squad.
In a statement released by his 2016 team, Uran said he is excited to begin competing again.
“We have a very strong team, but really for me Algarve is my first race of the season,” he said.
Uran has previously said he’s targeting a win at this year’s Grio d’Italia in May. Having twice placed second overall there while racing for Team Sky in 2013 and Omega Pharma-QuickStep in 2014, Uran said that he and his green-argyle team are putting everything into securing the pink jersey in Turin. That campaign will get underway Wednesday in Lagos.
Director Charly Wegelius said he expects Uran to come into this week’s race ready to compete on the front of the peloton.
“From what I’ve seen of him — since he started working with us and over the last years, he’s not somebody who’s going to come in half-cocked,” Wegelius said. “He’s going to come and race and he’ll be at the front. And that comes from him. That’s just the way he is. There’s no great pressure from us or great expectations. That’s just how he rolls.”
Despite Uran’s expected good form, Wegelius said Romunas Navardauskas will be the rider to watch this week from Cannondale.
“If he can freelance, he can win very hard sprints, or he could clip off and go his own way,” Wegelius said.
The team also has a pure sprinter on the roster with Australian Wouter Wippert, another new rider for 2016.
Cannondale Pro Cycling CEO Jonathan Vaughters said the race, which includes an 18km time trial during stage three and mountain-top finishes on stages 2 and 5, will provide a good early season test for the peloton.
“It’s sort of the first race of the season that is challenging enough on all fronts that it can give you a real indication of who’s going to be a force to be reckoned with early in the season,” Vaughters said. “People who have performed at Algarve are the people who’ve performed well at Paris-Nice, Tirreno and even through to the Spring Classics.”
The race will also be the Cannondale Pro Cycling debut of new director sportif Juan Manuel Garate.
Cannondale Pro Cycling for Volta ao Algarve: Andre Cardoso , Kristijan Koren , Sebastian Langeveld, Moreno Moser , Ramunas Navardauskas, Rigoberto Uran , Dylan Van Baarle, Wouter Wippert
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