As team buses assembled for the Gran Piemonte in the sunny Piazza Castello in Fossano, with the still snow-capped Alps in the distance, directeur sportif Sean Yates reckoned that his Sky boys were tired.
“It’s not so much the number of days that you race, you can race a lot but if you are just messing around at the back and following wheels then it’s not the same as riding few days but riding at the front and riding to win which is pretty much what we’ve been doing, all season and a lot of guys here are tired.”
As if to hammer home the point, at that precise moment Richie Porte stepped out of the Sky bus and nods at Yates, perched on the team car. “See you at the f…finish, man I nearly said ‘See you at the feed!'” laughed the Australian as he rode to the start.
“I’ll see you at the finish is what I mean.” Climbing off at the feed zone in the Gran Piemonte was on a lot of riders’ minds, with the Tour of Lombardy two days ahead.
One rider not thinking about climbing off or indeed much about the end of the season was Colombian Rigoberto Uran, mentioned by Yates as a guy who had had a particularly hard season, his first in riding two Grand Tours – the Giro (7th overall) and the Vuelta (29th overall).
Uran was a convincing winner of the Gran Piemonte, riding aggressively in the finale, provoking splits and never far from the front, backed by fellow Sky Colombian Sergio Henao. Uran didn’t look much like a tired man, in spite of his workload in 2012.
In fact, Uran has been around. Between the start of the season, the Giro and the Vuelta he’s been everywhere, including winning in a stage in the Volta Catalunya and racing to second place in the Olympics. Uran has bases in the four corners of the globe – home in Colombia as well as bases in Brescia, Pamplona and Vancouver.
“I like to travel,” laughed Uran, “but it’s really because of the teams that I’ve ridden for and, for the past year, my girlfriend lives in Vancouver.” So he’s been racking up the air miles as well as the road miles.
“I wouldn’t say that this win is consolation for coming second at the Olympics, that’s not the way I see things. Every race is important in its own right and every race is hard to win. I came out of the Vuelta with good condition and that’s what counted today (at Piemonte).
“In the finale I felt good and (Gorka) Verduga and I were working well together when we escaped. But we had no radios and I didn’t know what was happening behind us, so when I saw (Luca) Paolini (of Katusha) coming up, I waited until he was about 300 meters behind us before I jumped clear,” said the youthful looking 27 year old later.
So, in spite of Yates’ downplaying his team’s energy levels, it was clear that Uran and his fellow Colombian Henao were in good form. Both Colombians had ridden two Grand Tours and both had finished the Vuelta in decent shape.
“Yes, I’m pleased with the win, obviously and, more than that it means I can be quite confident about Lombardy on Saturday.”
With a contract with Sky already tucked away and the team already in an invincible position at the top of the World rankings, the only reason that Uran has to race is to win and, on this evidence, he shouldn’t be far away from the win at Lecco on Saturday.