Like many of the riders in the Étoile de Bessèges peloton, EF Education-Nippo team leader Rigoberto Urán is making his first appearance in the French stage race, looking to get his season going earlier than usual with the hope of finding his groove a bit more quickly. “It’s good to be back,” said the 34-year-old Colombian prior to stage 2.
“The first stage went well. It’s the first time that I’ve ever started the season this early, and the aim is to provide a bit more rhythm at the start of the year. It’s been quite a while since I last raced, and it’s a very nice feeling to be back in action again,” he told Cyclingnews.
Urán is leading a EF-Nippo team that looks very different to last season. Several big names have left, notably Dani Martínez, Sep Vanmarcke and Mike Woods, and seven have come with the emphasis placed primarily on potential. Despite concerns about ongoing sponsorship that were ultimately resolved, Urán says that he didn’t think of moving on.
“There have been a lot of changes, it’s a new team to some extent. But the riders we’ve got are good, including some really good youngsters who have a lot of potential for the future,” he said.
“This is a team that gives it very best every year and I didn’t think of changing to another one, not at all,” the Colombian continued. “I’ve been here for six seasons now and I obviously feel really at home here. Of course, last year there was the issue of Covid and there was a bit of problem when it came to sponsorship, but that was resolved and the team kept going, with all of us working together.”
Urán created headlines in his home country recently when he spoke about targeting a first podium finish at the Vuelta a España. If achieved, it would complement his podiums at the Tour (2nd in 2017) and Giro (2nd in 2013 and 2014). However, before any focus on the Vuelta, Urán confirms that his prime objective will once again be the Tour de France.
“The Tour will be my primary goal this season. I’ll be going for the highest position I can on GC,” he explained. “It’s a race that I really love and I’m committed to doing all the work that’s required to get back up into the leading positions.” That work is already well under way at Bessèges.