Uran has Tour de France mo­men­tum

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Ja­son Blevins

SPRINGS» Less than COLORADO three weeks away from his sec­ond-place fin­ish at the 21-stage Tour de France, the red-hot Colom­bian Rigob­erto Uran is com­ing into the Colorado Clas­sic with some­thing to prove.

“He has no in­ten­tion of just rid­ing around. He wants to win the race and he’s made that very clear,” said Jonathan Vaugh­ters, the Colorado cy­cling leg­end who serves as boss for the scrappy, Boul­der-based Can­non­dale-Dra­pac team that has el­e­vated Uran as its pri­mary weapon against World Tour teams with much deeper pock­ets. “We are show­ing up to help him win. The team is there to back him up.”

Few pro­fes­sional cy­clists have a story like the 30-year-old Uran, who is known in the pro cy­cling cir­cle as “Rigo.” He grew up poor in north­west Colom­bia. At age 14, his fa­ther was gunned down just out­side his home­town. Turn­ing pro at age 16, with per­mis­sion from his mom, he quickly rose to re­gional and na­tional promi­nence. In 2011, he joined the U.K.’s heavy­hit­ting Team Sky, rid­ing largely in sup­port of su­per­stars such as Chris Froome. The next year he won an Olympic sil­ver medal for Colom­bia in the Lon­don Games road race. Last year he joined Can­non­dale-Dra­pac — known as the Argyle Ar­mada — as the team’s big gun and he is now one of the most pop­u­lar ath­letes in Colom­bia, with hun­dreds of thou­sands of fans hang­ing on his so­cial me­dia posts. His pro­file only grew as he emerged as a con­tender in last month’s Tour de France.

De­spite his suc­cess, ev­ery­one around Uran talks about his un­wa­ver­ing work ethic. He didn’t go home af­ter the Tour de France, opt­ing in­stead to pedal in Boul­der and ac­cli­mate for the Colorado Clas­sic.

“Rigo is a hard man. Never com­plains. Al­ways gets the job done. Rarely quits a race. In­jured, sick, what­ever; he doesn’t quit,” Vaugh­ters said.

His team­mate, Colorado cy­cling scion Tay­lor Phin­ney, raced his first Tour de France last month in sup­port of Uran.

“Hav­ing Rigo do so well, it was al­most easy for us as a team to rally around him,” Phin­ney said.

Phin­ney also said he came to Colorado to win for Can­non­dale-Dra­pac.

“I’m def­i­nitely here to put my hands in the air and as a team we are fo­cused on try­ing to win this thing,” said Phin­ney, who re­turned from a dev­as­tat­ing crash in 2014 to win the open­ing stage of the USA Pro Chal­lenge in Steamboat Springs in 2015.

Phin­ney, who Vaugh­ters said is climb­ing bet­ter than he ever has be­fore, is go­ing to be watch­ing the race’s break­aways closely, es­pe­cially on stage 2’s 10 gru­el­ing climbs up Breck­en­ridge’s Moon­stone Road. With small teams of only six mem­bers and wide roads, he will be push­ing and pulling Can­non­dale-Dra­pac to win the over­all ti­tle at the in­au­gu­ral Colorado Clas­sic.

“I think this is go­ing to be a race that will see a lot of ag­gres­sion be­ing re­warded,” said Phin­ney, the son of Boul­der cy­cling roy­alty Davis and Con­nie Phin­ney. “We will do what we need to do. We will see how (Thurs­day), or most im­por­tantly, Fri­day, goes. Be­yond that, we will see.”

It’s not like Uran is alone in his drive to win. He’s got hefty com­pe­ti­tion. BMC Racing Team has a his­tory of suc­cess in Colorado, putting an ath­lete on the podium of the USA Pro Chal­lenge in 2013, 2014 and 2015. BMC’s Brent Book­wal­ter was in the yel­low jersey in 2015 when he fal­tered on Breck­en­ridge’s Moon­stone Road, open­ing the door for his team­mate Ro­han Den­nis, who won the stage and went on to win the fi­nal run­ning of the Pro Chal­lenge.

“Not my fa­vorite road,” Book­wal­ter said. “I feel like I have un­fin­ished busi­ness on that climb.”

Uran said the tighter field of the Colorado Clas­sic — half the size of the Tour de France — and the small teams means the stages are go­ing to be “su­per fast.”

“And they are go­ing to be hard to con­trol,” he said through a trans­la­tor. “I’m look­ing for­ward to Stage 2 but … it’s go­ing to be hard to con­trol the race.”

Uran said his fight to pedal out of poverty has con­trib­uted to his renowned work ethic. But his zeal for ped­al­ing plays a larger role in his suc­cess.

“It doesn’t re­ally mat­ter if you are rich or you are poor. You have to love your bi­cy­cle and you have to love cy­cling and that is the most im­por­tant thing,” he said. “You have to be per­sis­tent ev­ery day be­cause oth­er­wise you will never make it to the Tour de France. It is the pas­sion for cy­cling that mo­ti­vates me to suc­ceed and be where I am right now and the per­son I am right now.”

About the race

Six­teen men’s and 15w omen’s teams will par­tic­i­pate in the four­day event ,w hich brings world-class bi­cycl era cin gb ack to Colorado af­ter the demise of the USA Pro Chal­lenge ,w hich was held from 2011-15. The men will race 313 mil eso ver fou rda ys with 21,587 feet of climbin g.T he women will race 70.4 mil eso v ert w oda ys while climb­ing 5,890 feet .I n ad­di­tion to the over­all win­ners (called “gen­eral clas­si­fi­ca­tion”), com­pe­ti­tions within the race in­clude honors for most ag­gres­siv er iders ,b est Colorado rid­ers ,ki ng and queen of the moun­tain, sprint lead­ers and best young rid­ers.

Thurs­day

Colorad oS prings Cir­cuit races, be­gin­nin ga nd endin gi nd own­town Colorad oS prings while in­cor­po­rat­ing the Gar­den of the God sa nd Ridge Road. The women will race 38.4 miles (two laps) with 2,230 feet of climb­ing ,b egin­nin gat 10 a.m. a ndf in­ishin gata bout 11:35 a.m. The men will race 93.5 miles (six laps )f rom 1:10 p.m. to 4:40 p.m. with 5,93 4f eet of climb­ing. Bes tpl ace to watch: Gar­den of the Gods.

Fri­day

Breck­en­ridge cir­cuit races, be­gin­nin ga nd endin gi nd own­town Breck­en­ridge while in­cor­po­ratin ga no­to­ri­ously bru­tal as­cen ton Moon­stone Road and a steep de­scen ti nI lli­nois Gulch. The women will race 32 miles (fiv ela ps) from 11 a.m. un­til about 12:2 5p .m. with 3,660 feet of climb­ing. The me nf ol­low from 2 p.m. to 4:40 p.m., racin g6 4 miles (1 0la ps) with 7,320 feet of climb­ing.

Bes tpl ace to watch: Moon­stone Road.

Satur­day

Denver to Peak to Peak High­way (out a ndb ack ),b egin­nin ga nd endin gi n the RiNo district while in­cor­po­rat­ing the Peak to Peak High­way, Gap Road and Golden Gate Canyon. The men will be racing 81 miles with 6,733 feet of climb­ing ,b egin­nin gat 1:30 p.m. a ndf in­ishin gat 4:40 p.m.

Bes tpl aces to watch: Golden Gate Canyon, Maple Grove Park i nW heat Ridge.

Sun­day

Denver City Cir­cuit with men racing 74.6 miles (1 0la ps ),b egin­nin gat 12:20 p.m. and endin gat3 p.m., startin ga ndf in­ishin gi n the RiNo district and in­cor­po­rat­ing City Park. Bes tpl aces to watch: City Park and along Larimer or Wal­nut streets be­tween 26th and 35 tha venues.

Chris Graythen, Getty Im­ages Europe

Rigob­erto Uran sprints to the fin­ish dur­ing Stage 20 of the Tour de France in Mar­seille on July 22.

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