Dreams of becoming Colombia’s first Tour winner started to unravel with a late-stage crash in Sunday’s day on the cobblestones. Banged up and bruised, Urán put on a brave face Tuesday in the 2018 Tour’s first major mountain stage, but Urán ceded another 2:36 when he couldn’t keep pace. He sunk to 34th at 5:59 back.
Urán challenged Chris Froome all the way to Paris in 2017. The Sky leader took his fourth Tour by his smallest winning margin. However, Urán admitted he won’t be winning the Tour this year.
“Of course I won’t be leaving the Tour,” Urán told journalists Tuesday who wondered how serious his injuries were. “It’s obvious that when you have a crash like this you have to reconsider your options.”
Two days of costly time losses were in sharp contrast to Urán’s otherwise near-perfect start of the 2018 Tour. The veteran Colombian came into the race hoping to better his runner-up status of last year by making history as Latin America’s first yellow jersey.
Things were relatively going well Sunday until he slid out on a corner after coming out of a cobblestone sector about 30km to go Sunday. It appeared Urán was struck from behind and the blow sent him toppling hard onto an asphalt section.
EF Education First-Drapac rallied around Urán and the team managed to limit the damage though it was clear Urán was hobbled. With bandages covering his wounds, Tuesday’s entrée into the Alps for the Tour’s first major climbs were doubly hard for Urán. He struggled to keep pace as Team Sky turned on the turbos and the elastic eventually snapped.
“I tried to stay at the front today, but the blow from Sunday was pretty complicated,” Urán said. “Today in the race I was suffering, with some pain in the back, and we lost a bit of time. Now we are behind quite a bit and we’ll regroup as a team and see what we can do.”
This is not where Urán and EF were hoping to be nearing the Tour’s midway point. Last year, Urán had already won a stage and was emerging as a GC threat.
EF came to this Tour with a team fully committed to Urán. On Sunday, riders such as Sep Vanmarcke and Taylor Phinney sacrificed their chances to win the stage to help Urán. On Tuesday, the team did the best it could to keep Urán close as the GC favorites tested their collective mettle for the first time on the climbs.
“When you hit a stage like today on the back foot after a crash like that is not ideal,” said EF’s Simon Clarke. “Winning the Tour now is going to be a little more difficult.”
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Urán was more impacted by Sunday’s crash than perhaps he wanted to admit. On Tuesday, as the speeds ramped up on the Tour’s first major climbs, pain in his back and over the rest of his body made keeping pace nearly impossible.
“It hurts, yes, my back, my knees, a little bit all over, and during the race, it’s not so easy to keep a high rhythm,” Urán said. “Today we really noted that. When it was a big group, it cost me a lot to stay there, so I was really feeling it out on the road.”
Urán vows to keep fighting, but everyone knows that Wednesday’s even more explosive climbing stage could see even more losses.
“The Tour de France isn’t easy. It isn’t meant to be easy,” Clarke said. “We’re fighting, and we’re going to keep fighting. All the way to Paris.”
Urán echoed the determination: “We are here until the final. We are not giving up.”