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Urán putting Tour, Ardennes on front-burner

Rigoberto Urán wants to race well in the Ardennes classics before heading to the Tour de France this summer.

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Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale – Drapac) is hoping a change will do him good in 2017.

For a rider who’s come close twice to winning the Giro d’Italia, the veteran Colombian will skip the familiar roads of Italy and return to the Tour de France this summer for just the fourth time in his decade-long career. And that will open up space for him to return to the favorable hilly terrain of the Ardennes for the first time since 2013.

“We are changing a lot,” Urán said. “I believe changes are important, and this year we are going to try something different. We’ll focus more on the classics. [I] won’t go to the Giro after many years in order to prepare well for the Ardennes.”

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Perhaps change is what Urán needs. Last year, he was dreaming of winning the Giro and the Olympic gold medal, but came up empty in both races: seventh in the Giro and a DNF at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. He’ll turn 31 next week, and in a professional career that reaches back to 2006, Urán knows he’ll need some big performances this season to keep himself at the top of the game.

For a rider who is consistently close to big wins — who can forget his silver medal to Alexander Vinokourov at the London 2012 Olympics? — Urán only boasts eight victories on his palmares. He’d like to increase that number.

“Victories are the most important thing,” Urán said. “I’ve always said everything arrives in due course, but sometimes it’s difficult to ask for patience when you have a team behind you that pays you to win races. I’ve been training well, perhaps better than ever … but the level has grown a lot, in all the races. Look at the [Ruta del Sol]; everything comes in due course, the only thing you can do is keep working.”

Urán’s last victory came at the GP de Québec in 2015. After riding to seventh last year in the Giro following a move from Quick-Step to Cannondale, he had a strong closing part of the season with three third places, including at the Giro di Lombardia.

Urán is hoping to pick up where he left off last year, and he rode to a promising eighth at the Ruta del Sol that finished Sunday. With Sep Vanmarcke back in Cannondale colors (he raced with the franchise from 2011-12) to provide the team with extra heft in the northern classics, Urán’s renewed focus on the Ardennes will give the team a solid presence across all the spring classics this year.

“It’s obvious that I like the one-day classics and they are good for me, so we’ll focus on them to try to get points for me and the team,” Urán said.

And for his return to the Tour? Andrew Talansky is expected to be the team’s main GC man, allowing Urán more freedom to chase stage wins and attack in what will be a very atypical Tour course.

“The Tour? I could be hunting for stages, helping the team or the GC,” he said. “This year the Tour is very different, without a long time trial to settle things. It’s an explosive Tour, more open, with the first stages almost like classics. The most important thing for me is to show up ready to race, and help out the team wherever it needs me.”

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