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Uran aims for Il Lombardia win — and Tour yellow

After a strong season that saw him finish second in the Tour de France, Rigoberto Urán wants to end on a high note this weekend.

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Can Rigoberto Urán’s magical season get any better? He’s hoping so.

Hot off his impressive victory Thursday at Milano-Torino, the Colombian lines up Saturday as one of the favorites for the Giro di Lombardia.

On Thursday, Urán confirmed great late-season legs when rode a top-notch field off his wheel with a tactical attack to win the 98th running of Milano-Torino.

“In my career, sometimes I have been told that I’ve attacked too early or too late,” Urán said. “It’s important for me and the team to get a victory, especially as a confidence booster ahead of Il Lombardia, which is a race I like a lot.”

The Cannondale-Drapac captain carries confidence and momentum into Saturday’s Lombardia. Three-times third in the season’s fifth and final monument, Urán is hoping to finish off his breakout season with one more win.

Top rivals include Dan Martin, in his final race with Quick-Step Floors before moving to UAE-Emirates, Fabio Aru (Astana), Adam Yates (Orica-Scott), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), and Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky).

“We have a big one Saturday, and I hope the legs still feel good for Lombardia,” said Yates, who was second to Urán Thursday. “Everyone knows how hard it is. It’s a much harder race than [Thursday], and a lot more climbing.”

Following Thursday’s big win, all eyes will be on Urán. And how sweet it is for the popular Colombian.

Urán was among the first of the latest generation of “escarabajos” to come to Europe. He turned pro at age 19 following a tumultuous upbringing, and has consistently delivered big results. Yet with two relatively light seasons, with only one major win in 2015-2016, some even thought it was time for the 13-year veteran to retire. Cannondale-Drapac, however, knew the 30-year-old was posting strong numbers in training.

Following a steady spring this year, Urán enjoyed his best Tour de France ever, winning a stage and finishing second overall to Chris Froome (Sky).

“I didn’t want to exaggerate, because in cycling, it’s the legs that decide where you end up. But I knew I came to the Tour in great shape,” Urán said after the Tour. “Losing time in the first time trial marked the race, because after that, there were not that many big differences.”

Urán’s subsequent Tour run, which included winning stage 9 with a broken derailleur, delighted Colombia. Urán was already a major star after winning the silver medal in the 2012 Olympic Games, but his friendly and natural banter with the Colombian media won him even more legions of fans.

In one instance when he was asked what happened in the stage that saw Peter Sagan ejected from the race, Urán answered, “Y qué voy a saber, güevon!” — which translates to, “How the hell should I know, dude?!” That retort delighted fans across Colombia.

After his dream-like season, Urán’s confidence is flying high. Twice a runner-up in the Giro d’Italia and now second to Froome in the Tour, he believes he’s due for a title. He’s waiting to see what the courses for the major grand tours look like for next year, but his performance this July leaves him convinced he can win a grand tour.

“I hope to win a three-week tour, and I hope it’s the Tour de France,” Urán said in July. “To finish second to Froome by less than a minute was very good. It’s an important podium, the most important result of my career. And it came after some people saying that I should be thinking about retirement.”

No need to worry about that. Urán has signed a three-year extension to stay with Slipstream, which will race under a new title sponsor in 2018.