A mountain time trial doesn’t suit most riders… then again, most riders aren’t Rigoberto Urán.…
Heavy rain and cold temperatures greeted the team upon their arrival in Switzerland last week ahead of the 2021 Tour de Suisse. After the race was canceled last year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the race returned to its usual spot in the cycling calendar promising to be the premiere tune up race for the looming Tour de France again.
For our young Swiss rider Stefan Bissegger, this Tour de Suisse was a special one. Not only was this his first Tour de Suisse since he turned pro halfway through last year, but the race was also a homecoming for him as the race kicked off just down the street from his hometown of Weinfelden. A stage he had targeted ever since the course was released earlier this year, Bissegger showed up ready but rain during his run hampered his chances of winning the stage and he finished a narrow second on the day.
For Rigoberto Urán, who was making his return to racing after being back home in Colombia over much of the early season, stage 1 was always going to be tricky, but regardless, sport director Juanma Garate remained impressed by his form coming into the race.
“Rigo had a late start to the season, so he came to the Tour de Suisse really fresh and in really good condition,” said Garate. “We saw on the first stage, even if the result didn’t reflect it, that Rigo was in top shape.”
Over the next few stages, the team showed that they had come to Switzerland in good form and Neilson Powless and Urán slowly started to move up in the overall.
The rain didn’t let up on stage 4, and neither did the racing. A stage made for the breakaway, the start was fast and furious. While Bissegger made it into the big move of the day, a small group formed and started to build a healthy lead over the larger group behind. Maybe spurred on by his narrow defeat a few days earlier, Bissegger mounted a brave chase and when he bridged the gap, as his teammate Neilson Powless said “nothing was going to stop him.”
A brilliant first road stage win by a rider still in his first full year as a professional.
As spring turned into summer over the next few stages, it seemed that Rigo’s legs had also started to thaw.
“On the first uphill final, he showed us how good his legs were. The freshness and the quick reactions to all the attacks were there,” said Garate. “Because we knew he was in good condition, we really focused on the stage 7 time trial.”
The time trial went straight up the Oberalp pass and then straight back down again to Andermatt. As Rigo set off, his advantage just kept growing the whole way up the climb and after he had bombed down to the finish his lead had extended to over 53 seconds over the then leader – Gino Mäder (TBV). At the end of the day, Rigo won the stage with over 40 seconds over his closest rival, catapulting him into second overall with one mountain stage left.
The race left the biggest climbs for the final stage, taking the riders across 3,560 vertical meters. It was all or nothing on the final climb up the Gotthard Pass. Last time we went up this climb, we saw Hugh Carthy take his first World Tour win at the Tour de Suisse stage 8 back in 2019, but today it was the general classification riders that were battling it out on the climb. While Rigo launched several attacks near the top of the climb, there was nothing anyone could do to shake the race leader – Richard Carapaz (IGD).
Two stage wins, second overall for Rigoberto Urán, second in the young riders competition for Neilson Powless and the points classification jersey for Stefan Bissegger, all in a week of racing. This will surely be a Tour de Suisse we won’t forget.
This second place finish for Rigo shows that our Colombian veteran is in fine form ahead of his 8th career Tour de France and 20th career Grand Tour.
“This is probably the best I have seen him in months, and I can probably even say it’s been a few years since I’ve seen him race in this way,” said Garate. “He was super happy to have won as he did on stage 7 with such a big gap to his rivals and I think this win will give him a lot of motivation ahead of the Tour de France”
We are counting down the days now until the “Grand Boucle,” but for now, we will enjoy a spectacular week of racing in Switzerland.