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Urán rode into the second half of the Tour in pole position for a top spot in Paris, starting Tuesday’s 10th stage in third place at 5:18 back.
Urán, second in 2017, is banging on the podium door again.
“We tried to defend ourselves and not lose a lot of time because the level is very high,” Urán said. “The mountain stages were very complicated and now we have big climbs with Mont Ventoux and the Pyrénées. That will show us who can challenge for the podium in Paris.”
EF Education-Nippo’s Neilson Powless said the team already believed in Urán’s chances before the Tour started, and that belief and confidence is only compounding the closer the pack pushes toward Paris.
“The goal coming into the Tour was to support him, and that is still the goal, and even more so now that he is in such good position,” Powless told VeloNews at the start Tuesday. “I will still be looking for breakaways opportunities further down the road, but I will be there to support him if he needs me. If I don’t have any personal success, but Rigo ends up on the podium, it’s a dream.”
Climbing mountains, climbing the GC. Rigoberto Urán moves up to 3rd overall after a strong showing on the Tour de France’s longest climb of the year💪🇨🇴
Now, who’s ready for tomorrow’s rest day? pic.twitter.com/ctXXsYHAH1
— EF Pro Cycling (@EFprocycling) July 4, 2021
Last year, Powless lit up the Tour with a series of breakaways that earned him two top-5’s in his Tour debut.
Now with Urán looking so strong, Powless still might go on the attack, but it will be a more tactical play to have fresh legs waiting up the road for Urán to bridge across to.
“We’ll see another tough GC day on Ventoux,” Powless said. “It will be racing straight out for the breakaway, and then attacking from behind for the GC. I will be looking out for groups, and if I do get up the road, it will be to help Rigo later on.”
Figuring out how to crack Pogačar
With Tadej Pogačar tightening his grip on the GC, Powless admitted it will be a puzzle to try to defrock the young Slovenian.
“Days like today could present an opportunity, these flat stages with wind, you never know what can happen,” Powless said. “‘Mano-a-mano’ by far he is the strongest, and we can see if we can put some tactics together to try to wrestle the jersey off of him, but it’s going to be really tough.”
Urán deftly avoided the pratfalls and mishaps that marred many of the top GC rivals in the first half of the Tour.
Riders fell like dominoes in a series of high-profile and costly stages in the first week, but Urán escaped relatively unscathed.
What’s his secret?
“He is just super-relaxed, he never gets too tense or too stressed,” Powless said. “He has the experience to bide his time and wait, and let the others tire themselves out. I think his ability to stay relaxed and smooth in the peloton has helped him this far.”