While the Tour de France 2017 was disappointing for Nairo Quintana, Rigoberto Urán stepped up to finish second.
The Tour de France is a tough race, covering around 86 hours and 3,540 kilometres. In all that time and distance, Rigoberto Urán finished just 54 seconds behind now four-time champion Chris Froome from Great Britain. The good natured Rigo is a happy-go-lucky character off the bike, and caused waves in Colombia for his exuberant interview style. He was clearly made up to be on the podium, but his demeanour on the bike was quite the opposite. Nobody chances their way to a Tour podium, and there was steel behind his smile.
Rigo was there or thereabouts for most of the race, and knew that his superior ability against the clock meant that third-placed Romain Bardet had to attack him. On the penultimate day, Rigo delivered the goods in style, blasting around the course in the eighth best time to put a whopping 1.32 minutes into Bardet and comfortably finish second overall. However, he still lost the expected second per kilometre to Froome, and thus was never a threat for the yellow jersey.
Although Rigo couldn’t match Froome against the clock, he beat him in one area: stage wins. Controversially, Froome won without ever winning a stage, yet Urán took home the ninth stage in Chambéry. Not only that, but it was the queen stage, ranked as the year’s hardest. It’s fair to say that he was allowed to go, but still showed remarkable grit to take victory as he suffered a catastrophic gear failure, leaving him stuck in a very high gear to compete for the sprint. After originally thinking he’d lost, a photo finish saw him proclaimed champion by a whisker. He went predictably nuts.
From there on in, Rigo was a man to be marked and settled into his traditional role of following rather than leading. The Antioqueño has never been a big attacker, and with Cannondale Drapac a fairly weak team, he held onto the train of Skybots for long enough to get to Marseille. Then it was his turn to excel, and the rest is history.
Colombia’s eternal hope, Nairo Quintana, finished outside the top ten, more than 15 minutes in arrears. It was a bitterly disappointing performance from the Boyacense rider, but after finishing second in the Giro d’Italia it was always to be expected. Elsewhere, Esteban Chaves was riding to regain fitness ahead of the Vuelta a España and never made any great waves. Darwin Atapuma put in a great shift on Colombian Independence Day but was pipped to the stage by the outstanding home rider Warren Barguil, resplendent in his polka dot jersey for best climber.
Urán’s second place was Colombia’s 11th Grand Tour podium in the last half decade, proving definitively that this is not just Colombia’s golden generation, but possibly one of the best throughout cycling. That said, it’s unclear whether they will be competitive at the World Championships in Bergen. Although they now boast a superstar sprinter in Fernando Gaviria, the team is highly unbalanced towards small climbers. Before that, watch Chaves at the Vuelta – he could well complete a hat-trick of Colombian podiums. If Froome stays away, he could even become Colombia’s second consecutive winner after Nairo last year.