Rigoberto Uran rounded out the Colombia Oro y Paz general classification podium in Manizales on Sunday. The Colombian started the final stage in second overall, three seconds off the race leader. EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale put every effort into supporting Uran to a career-first stage race victory.
Alex Howes and Julian Cardona manned the peloton during the queen’s stage opening hour in the hopes of keeping the race together through the first intermediate sprint.
“At kilometer 56, it was the first bonus sprint of the day,” said sport director Juanma Garate. “We were trying to control the race up until that point to do the sprint for Rigo. If we got the maximum bonus and Nairo [Quintana] got nothing, we’d be the leaders of the race.”
Despite Howes’ and Cardona’s best efforts, an escape slipped up the road just shy of the first sprint.
“It was a crazy start and at that moment, we couldn’t do anything more,” said Garate. “A big break with 33, 34 riders went away. That group took all the bonus seconds. We had two riders there with Julian and Nate [Brown]. They stayed in the wheels and never rode in the front.”
With the intermediate sprint bonus seconds no longer in play, #PinkArgyle saved energy and effort for the finale. The general classification would likely be decided on the nearly 20-kilometer long climb up to Manizales.
“The problem here was that radio tour did not work at all,” said Garate. “That’s one of the few areas that I can say they need to improve. In the final – the real, real final – we didn’t have any information about who attacked or who was gone or whatever. At the end, I asked Dani [Martinez] to try to close the gaps to the strongest riders, to try to keep it together to do a sprint to Rigo and make a gap to Nairo.”
Four kilometers from the summit, Egan Bernal (Team Sky), who started the final stage in fourth place overall, launched a missive. Martinez marked the move.
“When Bernal went, Nairo didn’t move and also Rigo didn’t move,” said Garate. “He was waiting for the last 300 meters like I told him. Bernal was too strong. And that’s it. Bernal won the overall race and Rigo finished third. He lost one spot.”
“We also lost the team classification to Sky today,” Garate noted. “We were leaders by ten seconds before today’s stage. Sky had two in the break. We had two also but Nate had a flat tire, and he couldn’t stay with the strongest. This fact made us lose the team classification by 25 seconds to Sky. We were all a bit sad about that.”
While Uran may have lost a position on the general classification, the adoring Colombian public greeted him like a true champion as he walked out onto the podium to chants of “RIGO! RIGO! RIGO! RIGO! RIGO!” Uran asked for a microphone to greet the boisterous crowd.
“Racing at home with all of you is one of my greatest blessings,” Uran said from the podium. “Thank you for everything.”
Martinez proved the #PinkArgyle race revelation, finishing fifth on both the queen stage and the general classification.
“I really look forward to seeing Daniel racing in Europe,” said Garate. “He’s a good talent and he’s the best gregario that we could have for Rigo. He’s even the same size bike.”
Check back for additional comments from Rigoberto Uran.