After a peaceful off-season, Movistar’s Nairo Quintana will begin his campaign for a golden Tour de France jersey at first-year Colombian stage race Oro y Paz.
The six-day race will run February 6-11 and features several other top European pros and fellow Colombians. Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors), winner of four stages in the 2017 Giro d’Italia will be a favorite in the bunch sprints. Rigoberto Urán, second place overall at the Tour de France will lead his EF Education First-Drapac team. Climbing domestique Sergio Henao will have an opportunity to step up as Team Sky’s protected rider.
“It’s such a good thing to have Team Sky here, and for us, it’s something special to come back home. It allows people to get closer and better know the three Colombian riders in the team,” Henao said. “It means a lot for Colombia to have a 2.1-level stage race with the presence of a team such as Sky and I think the race will grow in the future.”
Henao will first race at the Colombian national road race championships on February 4, where he is the defending champion.
Urán will also contest the nationals road race, his first start of the season. He won his country’s time trial national championships in 2015 but did not contest that race Friday, where Henao finished sixth.
“I’m very happy because it’s the first time we’re going to do a race in Colombia,” Urán said of Oro y Paz. “It’s been many years since we’ve raced in Colombia — approximately 11 years, and I’m really excited to find myself with the Colombian public again. It’s beautiful and wonderful, and it’s going to serve Colombia well.”
There should also be a sizeable contingent of Americans in Colombia. Holowesko-Citadel brings GC leader T.J. Eisenhart, Miguel Bryon, and sprinter John Murphy. Urán’s team includes Alex Howes and Nate Brown. UnitedHealthcare brings Johnny Clarke and Gavin Mannion, and Illuminate will start Connor Brown and Cameron Piper.
“I’m super excited to start the season down here in Colombia,” said Brown. “This is my first time to Colombia, and having Rigo on the team in his home country — I think we are in for a real treat.”
The first half of the race comprises three flat stages, which should suit Gaviria. The latter part of the race heads into the hills with three uphill finishes, culminating with a 184.3km stage that finishes at 2,202 meters (7,218 feet) in Manizales.