This year, if Powless is staying hidden away so far in the first week of the Tour, it’s for a reason.
With Rigoberto Urán riding comfortably in the top-10, EF Education-Nippo is changing its tack to wave the team flag around the veteran Colombian to see if he can equal, and perhaps even better, his second place overall in 2017.
As a result, EF Education-Nippo’s Powless is racing this Tour with a different tilt to what he did in his spectacular debut in 2020.
“We have a bit more focus on Rigo this year,” Powless said Thursday. “He’s even in better shape than last year, and he was flying at Swiss.”
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Coming into Friday’s stage ahead of back-to-back climbing efforts in the Alps, Urán started seventh overall at 1:29 back.
So long as Urán is in with a chance, Powless is riding for the team’s interest.
“When we get to the mountains, we will see how much he will need,” Powless explained. “If need be, I’ll stay with him.”
The 24-year-old Powless is back for his second Tour. Last year, he made a ripple through the peloton after riding into a series of successful breakaways, hitting fourth and fifth, in stages six and eight, respectively.
Powless also made headlines as the first Native North American to race the Tour in the race’s century-plus history. His racing panache and interesting back story made him a media darling.
Insiders know that Powless could develop into something more, with sport director Charly Wegelius telling VeloNews that he could have GC potential in his future.
With Tadej Pogačar taking an early lock on the top of the leaderboard, there’s still a lot of space behind him. Wednesday’s time trial was key, and both Powless and Urán came through.
“The time trial went pretty well, we had four guys in the top-20. It shows we have strong depth and good coverage for Rigo when it starts to get hard,” Powless said. “It was nice to feel what it was like to sit on a competitive pace for a while. It was a nice confidence boost. Hopefully, I can extend that out and hold it longer in the future.”
Right now, it’s all about nudging Urán closer to Paris.
The team won’t leave this Tour without trying to light up some stages, and Powless and riders like Sergio Higuita and Ruben Guerreiro will have freedom to move on key breakaway days in the second half of the Tour.
“If the opportunity arises, and Rigo is safe and sound, I’d like to take an opportunity for myself,” Powless said. “We will see how the race plays out.”
EF Education-Nippo sees two editions of the Tour de France this year. One is the pro race, and a second is Lachlan Morton and his race to beat the peloton to Paris.
Powless said he’s cheering on his teammate and friend as the Australian makes steady progress across France on his solitary, self-supported ride across all the Tour stages.
“I think it’s pretty amazing,” Powless said of Morton. “It’s in his wheelhouse. He will probably beat us to Paris. I know he is enjoying every moment even with how difficult it is. I’m sure he is enjoying every moment of it.”