EF Education First Pro Cycling took the victory on the first stage of the Tour Colombia 2.1, a team time trial which they won by eight seconds over Deceuninck-Quick Step, with Team Sky rounding off the podium at 10 seconds down. Rigoberto Uran crossed the line first in his hometown to take the leader’s jersey.
“We’re so happy to have won, for me it makes me really happy because we’re racing in my home, and it’s what you hope for more than anything. Cycling is so big in Colombia and to win a team time trial here is so motivating for the week ahead,” Uran said after the stage.
It took the team 15 minutes and five seconds to complete the 14km circuit around Medellín. Ahead of the first stage, Uran and company were the underdogs stacked up against the likes of Sky and Deceuninck-Quick Step. The team set off at a blistering pace, with the newly crowned Colombian national time trial champion, Dani Martinez, showing what his legs are made of, nearly blowing the team apart.
“A couple of times I was yelling at Dani to slow down as loud as I could yell, literally I was screaming for him to slow down. I could hear Nate behind Taylor and we were all screaming at him to slow down, but he couldn’t hear us because of the noise from the crowd,” Howes said.
“He’s just super strong,” Phinney added of Martínez. “I told him [Dani] to pull longer and less intense to keep it really regular.
“I think with the excitement of everyone we started super fast. Then we lost Nate and Alex after 4km and then I was sitting behind Dani, which is the most difficult position for me to sit, because he’s the smallest, most aerodynamic guy. So when he’s pulling I’m kinda pulling at the same time. So once I was in that position I recognized that I was the punching bag of the day and my main role was just survive within the group,” Phinney said.
Sport director Juanma Garate believes that a team time trial is one of the most special in the sport: “As you can imagine a team time trial victory is the best victory that you can do in cycling. Cycling is not an individual sport, even if sometimes it looks like that. To win a team time trial is the best thing because you all go on stage together. I’m super proud and happy that this was the first race of the year for all of them to win. It’s not possible to start any better.”
Garate explains it’s not going to be an easy race to control for the rest of the week: “This is a special race because we are only six WorldTour (WT) teams. We have 28 teams in the race, meaning 22 teams are not WorldTour, and their style of racing is a really offensive mode. So we have to pay attention in the coming days as it’s going to be difficult for us to control the race.
“But it’s true that we now have a few seconds in the bag, so we will see. We are here to try and win the general classification with Dani. This is what we said before we came to the race, and this is something that we will keep to. We are going to protect him and at the same time defend the jersey. We respect the race and Rigo has the jersey in Antioquia, so you can imagine what this means to him and to the team.”