“A couple of times I was yelling at Dani to slow down as loud as I could yell”
MEDELLÍN– “Rigo! Rigo! Rigo!” went the crowd, a swelling chorus of adoration for a national hero. The first stage of Tour Colombia 2.1 could not have gone any better: EF Education First Pro Cycling took the win in the team time trial by eight seconds over Deceuninck-Quick Step, with Team Sky rounding off the podium at 10 seconds down.
Rigoberto Uran crossed the line first in his hometown to deafening cheers from his Colombian fans. And you should have heard them when he pulled on the leader’s jersey.
“We’re so happy to have won, for me it makes me really happy because we’re racing in my home, and it’s what you hope for more than anything. Cycling is so big in Colombia and to win a team time trial here is so motivating for the week ahead,” Uran said post-stage.
It took the team 15 minutes and five seconds to complete the 14km circuit around Medellín. Ahead of the first stage, Uran and company were the underdogs stacked up against the likes of Sky and Deceuninck-Quick Step.
“It’s a good sign. The team came together really well today, and pulled off an upset victory which is always my favorite thing to do when nobody expects that to happen. When everyone is thinking, ‘Oh they’ll probably get third or fourth,’ and then you pull it off, it’s always fun,” team CEO Jonathan Vaughters said.
Incredibly motivated, the team set out at a blistering pace, with the newly crowned Colombian national time trial champion, Dani Martinez, showing what his legs are made of, nearly blowing the team apart.
“He’s just super strong. I told him to pull longer and less intense to keep it really regular”
“A couple of times I was yelling at Dani to slow down as loud as I could yell, literally I was screaming for him to slow down. I could hear Nate behind Taylor and we were all screaming at him to slow down, but he couldn’t hear us because of the noise from the crowd,” Howes said.
“He’s just super strong,” Phinney added of Martínez. “I told him [Dani] to pull longer and less intense to keep it really regular.
“I think with the excitement of everyone we started super fast. Then we lost Nate and Alex after 4km and then I was sitting behind Dani, which is the most difficult position for me to sit, because he’s the smallest, most aerodynamic guy. So when he’s pulling I’m kinda pulling at the same time. So once I was in that position I recognized that I was the punching bag of the day and my main role was just survive within the group,” Phinney said.
Sport director Juanma Garate believes that a team time trial is one of the most special in the sport: “As you can imagine a team time trial victory is the best victory that you can do in cycling. Cycling is not an individual sport, even if sometimes it looks like that. To win a team time trial is the best thing because you all go on stage together. I’m super proud and happy that this was the first race of the year for all of them to win. It’s not possible to start any better.”
Little by little in the last 18 months I’ve been given the opportunity to strategically build the team and we’re starting to see the fruit of that.
Vaughters sees this not just as a victory for this race but for the team as a whole and how it is gradually rebuilding itself. “The talent’s always been there, it’s just a matter when you have years and years of doing a merger with one team and a merger with another, you’re never really building the team, you’re just treading water.
“With mergers you’ve got riders coming in from other teams, it’s not strategically built. Little by little in the last 18 months I’ve been given the opportunity to strategically build the team and we’re starting to see the fruit of that; it’ll keep getting better.”
Garate explains it’s not going to be an easy race to control for the rest of the week: “This is a special race because we are only six WorldTour (WT) teams. We have 28 teams in the race, meaning 22 teams are not WorldTour, and their style of racing is a really offensive mode. So we have to pay attention in the coming days as it’s going to be difficult for us to control the race.
“But it’s true that we now have a few seconds in the bag, so we will see. We are here to try and win the general classification with Dani. This is what we said before we came to the race, and this is something that we will keep to. We are going to protect him and at the same time defend the jersey. We respect the race and Rigo has the jersey in Antioquia, so you can imagine what this means to him and to the team.”
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