‘Best race ever! It’s unreal the passion, and having Rigo on the team took it to the next level’
As Rigoberto Uran crossed over the finish line first on stage five in Colombia’s Oro y Paz last year, a chorus of ‘Uran por presidente’ (Uran for president) rang through the air. Back at the team bus, sport director Juanma Garate recalls there being a few thousand fans surrounding them, their continued chants of ‘Rigo! Rigo! Rigo!’ in celebration of their superstar’s victory.
“Best race ever!” Nate Brown exclaims. “I think it’s almost bigger down there than the Tour, it’s unreal the passion, and having Rigo on the team took it to the next level.”
The Tour Colombia 2.1, formerly Oro Y Paz, due to start on Tuesday 12th February, is sure to stir passion among its people. As our Colombians, Rigoberto Uran and Daniel Martínez, get ready to race in their homeland, here’s what to expect from the second edition of this budding Colombian bike race.
Colombia, though not entirely situated in the Southern Hemisphere, still plays to that race season, very much like the Australian races do. Which means at this time of year the Colombian riders are fit and raring to go. With their national championships being held just over a week out from the start of Tour Colombia 2.1, the Colombians have been ramping their training up, taking full advantage of being home in warmer climes and at high altitude.
“It’s tough, especially for me because you’re going from the dead of winter to not only altitude but also the heat,” explains Nate Brown. “Last year it wasn’t quite as high, this year it’s quite a bit higher so I don’t know how I’ll adjust to that.”
This year, the race starts on stage one with a team time trial (TTT). This will be an important stage, setting the tone for who has to play catch up on time for the rest of race, “The first stage is a team time trial, it’s 14km and flat, and that’s why we have the roster we have. Riders like Taylor and Lawson,” explains Garate.
We are also pleased to have Alex Howes motivated to be back racing. After a tumultuous season last year, due to suffering with previously undiagnosed hyperthyroidism, he is feeling pretty stoked to make his racing come back here in Colombia.
It’s going to be super important at the end of the race how strong we ride the first stage
“It’s going to be super important at the end of the race, how strong we can ride the first stage. If we gain or lose some seconds that will be what either makes the race difficult or easy to win the General Classification (GC),” says Garate. As the team roll off the start ramp together on stage one, Daniel Martínez will feel confident after his win at the Colombian national time trial championships last week.
Following the first day, stages two, three and four are considered flat stages, where the sprinters will have their chance. But the thing to remember, although they’re mainly flat stages, during those days the race will rarely drop below 6,500ft (2,000m) of altitude. Enough to make any rider not quite acclimatized feel the effects.
The last two stages are made for the Colombians to excel and display just how talented climbers they are. “Stage number five is super hard, stage number six is a long uphill final to Las Palmas which climbs to 7,988ft (2,345m) which is up to Rigo’s house. But stage number five up to La Unión, topping out at 8,123ft (2,476m) will be the harder stage,” Garate forewarns.
“Colombia has a lot of good climbers and not only at WorldTour (WT) level. They have teams that can destroy the race easily on stage number five,” Garate says.
Going into the race the team will look to support Martínez for the GC, “This year Rigo’s preparation is going a little bit slower than last year. Last year he was competitive, he won a stage but this year we are going more easy with him, our man for the final result is going to be Dani [Martínez]. Rigo will help Dani,” Garate says.
Maybe a surprise to some fans, but after Martínez’s performance at the time trial nationals, no-one can argue that he is looking in good form. He’s a rider who Uran admires and respects. “Working with Daniel Martínez is something really special, he has a lot of talent and really wants to learn. Last year in various races, in the Tour and at the end of the season I had the opportunity to race beside him and he’s spectacular,” Uran says.
Martínez is motivated and looking forward to racing against the huge roster of talented riders that are descending upon his homeland, “This year there are some really high level rivals coming to race, I hope to be on great form too,” he enthuses.
For a race to attract such a huge pool of talent in just its second edition is credit to the high caliber of riders that Colombia presently has. “Maybe 20 years ago they were super strong,” Garate says. “Then maybe there has been a bit of a hole for 15 of so years, but now they are coming out again super strong. In every single WorldTour team there is a Colombian rider that is strong. They deserve a race like this.”
It’s not just important for the riders, it’s important for the Colombians. Such avid fandom requires its reward. It’s impressive to see the amount of investment the Colombian Cycling Federation is putting into it.
Garate believes it’s partly thanks to Uran that the race even came to fruition. His work with the federation and wanting to invite people into his country to see what it’s all about — as he did with Chris Froome to his Gran Fondo las year — makes a huge difference.
The Colombian people, after many years of instability, want the race, too. They want to be able to see their stars. “It’s amazing, the fans come out to watch because the majority of the time they only get to see the sport’s main protagonists on the television, therefore for them, and for us, it’s beautiful to see, it makes us proud,” Martínez says.
Despite all the problems that the Colombian people sometimes have, we still have the ability to be happy
“Despite all the problems that the Colombian people sometimes have, we still have the ability to be happy and enjoy lots of things. We want to be proud of our country, of our athletes, we are huge lovers of sport,” Uran says.
For the second year we’re excited to see the beauty of this race unfold, to watch exuberant and vibrant fans show their love for their country and how proud they are to support their fellow Colombians. We’re excited to see our athletes represent the team and race through this beautiful landscape.
¡Venga equipo, que tengan fuerza!
Stage 1 – 14km TTT – Medellín – February 12th
Stage 2 – 150.5km – La Ceja to La Ceja – February 13th
Stage 3 – 167km – Llanogrande to Llanogrand – February 14th
Stage 4 – 144km – Medellín to Medellín – February 15th
Stage 5 – 176.8km – La Unión to La Unión – February 16th – uphill finish
Stage 6 – 173.5km – El Retiro to Alto de Palmas – February 17th – uphill finish
Want to know more about how team tactics work? Get the low-down from our team co-founder and boss, Jonathan Vaughters.