Rigoberto Uran will lead EF Education First-Drapac at the Tour de France starting next week, with the goal of topping his runner-up result from a year ago.
The American-registered team unveiled its Tour lineup Thursday, and the squad is built around the 31-year-old Colombian who has had several near-misses when it comes to winning a grand tour.
“The objective is quite simple,” team CEO Jonathan Vaughters said. “We start the race trying to win the Tour de France. Is that optimistic and is that pushing the limits of our team? Absolutely. But we were second place last year. We have a little bit stronger team this year, and we have a parcours more suited to Rigo than last year. [related title=”More Tour de France news” align=”left” tag=”Tour-de-France”]
“We have Rigo, who is stronger than he was last year. So we’re going in with the idea of trying to win the race.”
Added head sport director Charly Wegelius: Uran is “our leader, on and off the bike. He is a reference for the whole group for his tranquillity and professionalism. We are backing him 100 percent.”
Uran said racing a grand tour demands complete focus for three weeks, which includes what takes place on and off the bike.
“It’s important to focus in the race, at the dinner table, for the sleep,” said Uran, who has twice finished second at the Giro d’Italia to go with the same result at last summer’s Tour. “From the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep, it’s like the world championships every single day for three weeks.”
Uran’s top lieutenant in the mountains will be Frenchman Pierre Rolland, who has finished in the Tour’s top 10 on three occasions. He also took fourth in the 2014 Giro.
“He just finished a great eighth place in the Dauphiné, so we know he’s coming onto some of the best form he’s had in years,” Vaughters said of Rolland. “We expect him to be right there with Rigo.”
Also on the squad is Colombian Dani Martinez, who placed third in the recent Amgen Tour of California. 2018 will serve as his Tour de France debut, and Vaughters noted that the squad will rely on his climbing and time trial abilities.
American Taylor Phinney will race his second Tour de France after making his debut last summer. The 28-year-old will play a key role in the first nine stages, a run that includes a team time trial (stage 3) and a section of Paris-Roubaix cobbles (stage 9).
“I think my role is chief vibration officer. I have to keep the vibes up, make sure the frequencies are calibrated,” Phinney said. “Mostly I’m there as team player, looking after Rigo and the rest of the guys on the flat stages. If there’s some sort of a window where I can go for something myself, I’ll take that opportunity but that’s not what I’m going to the Tour to do — but you never know what can happen over three weeks.”
The remaining riders on the lineup are Simon Clarke, Sep Vanmarcke, Tom Scully, and Lawson Craddock.
EF Education First-Drapac for the 2018 Tour de France