FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Rigoberto Urán (EF Education First) expects continued growth of cycling at home with the second edition of the Tour Colombia on the horizon February 12-17.

The Colombian of American team EF Education First says the six-day stage race will “be better than the Tour de France,” where he placed second in 2017.

“We are going to have the best fans; this is going to be better than the Tour de France,” Urán said in a press release by the organizer.

“The people of Colombia and especially in Medellín are very fond of cycling, they follow the Colombian cyclists a lot and see them compete close up.”

The race starts in Medellín on February 12 with a 12-kilometer time trial. It features a couple of summit finishes, including the final stage to Alto de las Palmas at 2,500 meters.

Team Sky’s 21-year-old star Egan Bernal won the race in 2018 when it called Oro y Paz.

The UCI 2.1-ranked event attracted top stars in 2018, its inaugural year, and again has a strong line-up in 2019.

The start list includes Urán and his new teammate Tejay van Garderen, Sky’s Chris Froome with Colombian teammate Bernal, Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Miguel Angel López (Astana), and Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-Quick Step).

“I am preparing every day, training and enjoying myself,” Urán added.

“I am very happy that this race is here in Medellín. For me, it is an honor to compete here at home and on the roads where I train every day.”

As the race enters its second year, Urán says it is a key part of a reemerging Colombian cycling scene.

“We are doing well: We already have the national championship so that the cyclists who normally race in Europe compete,” Urán said. “We now have this 2.1 race, which is very beautiful, very important — people enjoy it a lot and it has done many good things for the country.

“Having a WorldTour race would also be possible, but many Colombian [Continental] teams would not be able to participate if that was the case. It’s something that we have to keep evaluating. I think that we’re fine because we’re going to have the best teams in the world with this race.”

Urán helped to lead the current revolution in Colombia. In 2014, he became the first Colombian to wear the Giro d’Italia’s pink jersey thanks to his time trial stage win in Barolo. That year, Nairo Quintana became the first Colombian to win the race overall.

Two seasons later, Quintana became the second Vuelta a España winner from Colombia, after Luis Herrera’s 1987 feat. No Colombian has won the Tour yet, though Urán stood on the podium in 2017.

With the current generation of riders — from Quintana and Urán to Ivan Sosa and Bernal — anything seems possible. The country, known for its climbers, even has a top sprinter. Last year, Fernando Gaviria became only the second Colombian to wear the Tour’s yellow jersey after Victor Hugo Peña in 2003.

“Every year, some of us have been on the podium of the grand tours, hopefully, this year will be the same, the [Tour] route is good, everyone knows it, but the most important thing is to be healthy and to be able to have a good race there,” Urán added.

“The next step? To have a Colombian team with a great sponsor and that can be in the Tour de France and in European races with Colombian cyclists.”