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Ride like Rigoberto Uran

26 Jan 2018

The likeable Colombian with talent, determination and a big heart

From poverty in Colombia to one of the world’s top pro cyclists, Rigoberto Uran’s story is an incredible tale of sheer talent and raw determination.

It was his father who introduced him to cycling at the age of 14, shortly before he was assassinated by paramilitary forces, forcing Rigo to take up a job as a lottery ticket seller to support his family.

He turned pro at 16, riding for a team in Medellín, then at 19 moved to Italy to seek his fortune on the European circuit, leading the way for a new crop of Colombian talent including the likes of Nairo Quintana and Sergio Henao.

But despite two podium finishes at the Giro d’Italia, he seemed destined never to hit the heights his talents promised.

After moving to Cannondale-Drapac, he was given a shot at the Tour as team leader in 2017 and a gutsy and tactically astute performance saw him take a surprise second place overall.

Has he got what it takes to go one better in 2018? Let’s look at the facts…


Fact file

Name: Rigoberto Urán Urán
Nickname: Rigonator
Date of birth: 26 January 1987 (age 30)
Born: Urrao, Colombia
Lives: Monaco
Rider type: All-rounder
Professional teams: 2006 Team Tenax Salmilano; 2007; 2008-10 Caisse d’Epargne; 2011-13 Team Sky; 2014-15 Omega Pharma-Quick Step; 2016-present Cannondale (now EF Education First-Drapac)
Palmarès: Tour de France 1 stage win, 2nd overall (2017); Giro d’Italia 2 stage wins, Young Rider classification (2012), 2nd overall (2013, 2014); Colombian National TT Champion 2015; Milano-Torino winner 2017; GP Québec winner 2015; Giro del Piemonte overall winner 2012; Olympic Road Race 2012 silver medal


Keep smiling

What? Uran is known for his big smile and a positive outlook that makes him a popular member of the peloton.

‘My personal happiness and my family’s happiness doesn’t depend on if I win a certain race or not,’ he said recently.

‘I know I’m paid to win, that’s part of professional sport, but if I don’t win, it’s not the end of the world. It’s more important to know that I’m healthy and happy.’

How? There’s great satisfaction to be had on the bike even with relatively minor victories like taking a KOM on Strava, but it’s important not to lose focus.

By all means chase those leaderboard times, but don’t ever let it become an obsession that sucks the fun out of the simple pleasure of riding a bike.

Despite his troubled upbringing, Uran is a model of positive mental attitude.

‘I try to make it that a result or a race does not influence my happiness and does not personally affect me,’ he explains. Let’s all be more like Rigo.


Show loyalty

What? With a few exceptions, most pro cycling teams struggle financially, relying on short-term sponsorship deals.

With the Cannondale-Drapac team on the brink of folding at the end of 2017, Uran’s decision to remain on board – turning down lucrative offers elsewhere – helped secure the team’s future.

‘I knew I wouldn’t have much problem finding another team, but I was worried for the more than 70 people from the team between riders and staff that would lose their jobs,’ he explains.

How? Uran’s decision to stay at Cannondale-Drapac was his way of repaying the support his team-mates had given him over the course of a successful season.

Even for us recreational cyclists, it’s worth remembering the other riders who have helped us in the past and what we can do to return the favour – from providing a wheel to ride behind in a headwind to giving fellow riders a lift to a sportive.



Grab your chance

What? Starting the 2013 Giro d’Italia in the role of lieutenant to Bradley Wiggins, Uran was promoted to team leader when Wiggo retired with illness.

By that time, Uran had already lost significant time to his main rivals by waiting to help Wiggins catch up after a crash, but he stepped up to the role with aplomb, attacking at every opportunity to cement his podium position.

How? Sometimes, opportunities present themselves unexpectedly so it’s important to be prepared to step up and take on the responsibility.

This could be stepping in to lead a group ride, or help run a coaching session for youngsters in your club.

Personal glory can come from doing your bit for your team or club, in whatever role required, and being adaptable and versatile enough to switch roles at a moment’s notice.


Let your legs do the talking

What? Going into the 2017 Tour de France, Uran wasn’t widely regarded as among the favourites to win.

However, a combination of clever tactical riding and gutsy attacks in the mountains saw him finish less than a minute behind Chris Froome, taking a brilliant win on the brutal stage nine, beating Warren Barguil to the line by less than a tyre’s width.

How? The lesson here is to let your legs do the talking. Uran is outwardly quiet and unassuming but this belies a gritty, determined character who knows that the way to prove yourself is to just get on with the job.

Whether you’re racing or just taking on a big sportive, sometimes it’s better to knuckle down and work hard in training then surprise people with a great result, rather than talk yourself up in advance and risk disappointment.

Put your mind to it 

What? After the assassination of his father, 14-year-old Uran became head of the household, but he was determined not to let that get in the way of cycling.

According to Colombian cycling journalist Klaus Bellon, ‘He would leave the house at 7am only to return close to midnight. He continued attending school, training and racing, while trying to lift his family out of poverty.’

How? One of the key traits that sets pro cyclists apart is their incredible drive but it’s something we can all aspire to.

If you’re training for a big ride and don’t feel like going out on a cold, wet morning remind yourself why you’re doing it.

Most of us are lucky enough not to have suffered the same extreme hardships as Uran, but we can use his example to remind ourselves of the potential rewards for hard work and sheer determination, and putting up with an occasional bit of suffering. HTFU, as they say!

Don't hold back

What? Uran rounded off his 2017 season with victory at the Milano-Torino one-day race in October, attacking on the final Superga climb.

‘This climb is short, but really hard,’ he said. ‘I was in a group of four, five riders and I decided to attack on instinct.

‘I went full gas to the finish line. In my career, sometimes I have been told that I’ve attacked too early or too late.

‘Today it was early, not exactly when I planned to do it. But I saw a gap and I went – on the hardest part of the climb.’

How? It’s important to have a strategy going into any big ride – study the route and work out which bits you need to save your energy for.

But as you approach the finish, it’s time for instinct to kick in. If you know you’ve got enough left in the tank for a big move, go for it.

There’s no point saving yourself for tomorrow when a big opportunity presents itself today.

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