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RIETI, Italy (VN) — Rigoberto Urán (Etixx-Quick-Step) is realistic about his chances of taking back enough time in Tuesday’s time trial to win the overall at Tirreno-Adriatico, but ask him about what lies in store in the Giro d’Italia, and the Colombian gets excited.
Urán will start Tuesday’s 10km time trial at San Benedetto del Tronto in third place overall, 48 seconds behind compatriot Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and though Urán is arguably the better time trialist of the two, he recognizes he will likely run out of asphalt before having a chance at the overall.
“I would be happy to finish on the podium in a race of this caliber. The time trial is only 10km, it’s not one of 50km,” Urán told VeloNews. “I went the maximum [up Terminillo], and considering how bad the conditions were, we have to be satisfied. The podium is realistic.”
Urán might be able to bounce up to second if he has good legs. Second place Bauke Mollema (Trek Factory Racing) will start the flat, out-and-back course along the seaside with a nine-second advantage. Like Urán, Mollema has also improved against the clock, and has been working closely with Trek to make improvements, so it should be close battle for the second place spot behind Quintana.
Looking behind him, Urán will have to watch out for Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), just nine seconds adrift. The young Frenchman has also improved dramatically in time trials, a strength that helped him secure third place overall in last year’s Tour de France. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), fifth at 1:03 back, ceded time to Urán in the opening prologue, and likely won’t be racing the same way he would be if he had the overall title on the line.
On Tuesday, Urán will be wearing Colombian colors as national time trial champion, further proof just how much the 28-year-old has made strides in the “race of truth.”
“I’ve worked a lot in this specialty, and I will continue, especially with the long time trial at the Giro this year,” Urán explained. “I’ve started the past two or three years to really focus on it, and the bet is starting to pay off. I had good sensations in the prologue, so I am very motivated.”
Like many at Tirreno-Adriatico, he is already thinking ahead to other goals looming on the horizon. He will race the Volta a Catalunya and then return to Colombia for a month before lining up for the Giro d’Italia.
After finishing as runner-up in the past two editions — 4:43 behind Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) in 2013 and 2:58 behind Quintana last year — Urán will start the 2015 Giro as one of the top rivals to pre-race favorite Contador.
Many pundits have already predicted that Contador will blow the doors off the peloton, but riders such as Urán, a very fit and motivated Richie Porte (Sky), hot off winning Paris-Nice, promise to make it a real battle.
The presence of a 59.2km time trial in the Giro’s stage 14 should give Urán a real boost. In last year’s Giro, he took a decisive victory in the stage 12 TT on a rolling, 42.2km in Barolo that saw him take a 3:29 lead on eventual winner Quintana. (Don’t ask him about the Stelvio debacle, where he lost time and momentum to Quintana.) At 17km longer — the longest of any grand tour time trial this year — the stage could crown the overall winner. Urán already has the date circled on his calendar.
“I can never be overconfident, but it’s a good time trial for me. It’s so long that you can win a lot of time, and you can lose a lot of time,” he continued. “I went to check out the route, and the truth is I really like it. So from here to then, I will really work hard to be strong on that very important day.”
So what’s a Colombian climber doing focusing so much time and energy on time trials? For Urán, it’s simple. If he wants to win a grand tour someday, he knows he must time trial with the best.
“I’ve always liked the time trial, but before, I was on teams where I was working for the leader, and when you’re in a situation like that, the time trials were almost like a rest day,” Urán said. “Now things are different. Here at Etixx, I am fighting for the GC, so I am taking them on very differently than in the past.”