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Tour de France

Rigoberto Urán expected to come around in the Pyrenees after starting the Tour de France undercooked

'With Rigo, I never really assumed that he would be able to ride GC after he came out of Suisse with COVID,' says Vaughters.

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This has already been a successful Tour de France for EF Education-EasyPost with a stage win via Magnus Cort and a hatful of breakaway performances from the entire squad.

It could have been a lot more, with Neilson Powless narrowly missing out on yellow, and Alberto Bettiol almost netting a win at Mende, but the team is still hoping to take another win before the race reaches Paris.

Stage 15 heads to Carcassonne, where Cort won in Astana colors back in 2018, but there’s also hope and expectation that Rigoberto Urán will be able to find his best form as the race dips into its third and final week.

Urán was designated as the team’s best hopes of a top-10 finish when the race left Copenhagen a fortnight ago. In his last eight grand tours, he has finished inside the top 10 on six occasions, with two runner-up spots to show for his efforts.

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At 35, and with a younger crop of riders emerging, the Colombian isn’t quite the force he once was but his spring was heavily hit by crashes and a bout of COVID-19 that took him out of the Tour de Suisse in June.

So far his rides in the Tour have been limited to the odd cameo in a break and a solid but not spectacular 12th on the summit of La Planche des Belles Filles. Crashes in the first week, however, and some major time losses have seen him drop to 28th overall, while Powless has meanwhile nudged himself back into contention for a possible top 10.

Urán’s best chance of success lies in the mountains with the Pyrenees set to come into view after Monday’s third and final rest day.

“We still have some goals to attain but we’ve hit our targets,” Jonathan Vaughters told VeloNews at the race.

“With Rigo, I never really assumed that he would be able to ride GC after he came out of Suisse with COVID. Riding GC is a whole different ball game but I think that he’ll be good in the Pyrenees. I think that he’ll have come around by then. He’s healthy but he came into the Tour de France a little bit undercooked.”

Powless has shone throughout the race. In an exclusive Tour de France blog for VeloNews he admitted that he is still trying to find out what sort of rider he is but he has been ever-present in the action. He was in the break on the cobbles, finished fourth on Alpe d’Huez, and was on the attack during the Mende stage too.

Those forays off the front have pushed him up to 14th overall in the race. He would likely need to go in at least one more break in the mountains if he is to stand a chance of creeping into the top-10 but Vaughters has seen some major progress from his young American rider.

“Little by little he’s learning how to conserve in a breakaway and learn how to be a little less anxious. He’ll get a stage win one of these days. He’s improving a lot as a rider. As a team, we want another stage but GC is what it is.”