Even in the context of this year’s unprecedented COVID-struck season, Rigoberto Urán has had little opportunity to test his race legs in the past 12 months.
Having abandoned last August’s Vuelta a España after crashing and suffering a long list of injuries, and then only getting this February’s Tour of Colombia in his legs before the pandemic shuttered the season, EF Pro Cycling’s Colombian leader has had just one week of racing in 12 months.
Nevertheless, it was Urán who sized his opportunity and lit up the denouement of Wednesday’s Criterium du Dauphiné stage with a speculative attack on 3km to go.
“You know, it has been so long since racing it was just really exciting to be back with the team and back out there,” Urán said after the stage. “It felt good, I feel happy with that as a first day back. ”
After EF Pro Cycling took the anti-COVID precaution of waiting until the Dauphiné to send their Tour team into action, Urán admitted he felt the heat from the likes of Team Ineos and Jumbo-Visma, who have already dominated the Route d’Occitanie and Tour de L’Ain this month.
“Between us and the guys who have raced already this season you can notice a bit of a difference, because they’ve already done quite a few days and so they are already back into that racing rhythm, so we’re a bit behind them,” Urán said.
“We’re really not worried about it because we are motivated to do well. We were up there today, but we also know there might be one or two days where we’re not, but it’s all about getting back in there and seeing what we have and just enjoying the race.”
Though Urán’s attack proved short-lived Wednesday, leaving him back in the bunch to take 33rd, Higuita netted seventh in the uphill punch to the line, won by Wout van Aert.
Like the majority of the field at this year’s talent-packed Dauphiné, Urán and EF Pro Cycling’s real finish line is five weeks down the road at the end of the Tour rather than the conclusion of the Dauphiné this Sunday.
“In reality, my last race was last August at the Vuelta España,” Urán said. “Obviously, I raced at Tour Colombia in February, but there, you’re on home ground. It’s a bit like being on holiday, whereas here at the Dauphiné it’s where all the best riders in the world are, with the mentality that they’re just about to race the Tour de France … [this week is] all about building as much strength as possible ahead of the Tour de France.”