Despite what seemed to have been a smooth stage for Rigoberto Uran, his first in the pink leader's jersey, the Colombian rejected any such notion after arrival in Rivarolo Canavese.
The predominantly flat stage around Turin in northern Italy appeared to have been gentle start for the maglia rosa of Omega Pharma – QuickStep but Uran claimed it was a stressful experience.
It was expected to be a day for a bunch sprint at the finish but a three-man breakaway ruined the sprinter's party as Bardiani's Marco Canola took the stage.
Uran finished safely in the peloton together with his major rivals for the title but said that a hail shower late on the stage had made conditions within the last 35 kilometres very tricky to negotiate.
"It wasn’t a calm day. It was very stressful in the finale because it was raining and the road was dangerous," Uran said. "The only calm day is the rest day on Monday. We had to ride at the front today because we didn’t want to risk a crash. But the real climbs start tomorrow and I’m feeling good."
Being the overall leader, Uran cannot slip away to his team bus like rivals such as Cadel Evans, Nairo Quintana and others. Instead, he has to deal with the podium ceremonies, interviews, doping control and the post-stage press conference. All responsibilities that follows wearing the maglia rosa.
Despite this being the first time the Colombian has led a grand tour, Uran does not fear that he will not be able to cope with the added strain.
"I have nine years of experience as a professional with five different teams," Uran said. "I’ve ridden with a lot of champions and I’ve learned a lot from it all. That means a lot. I’ve done four Giri, two Tours, three Vueltas, so I think I’ve got a bit of experience."
Just one year ago, Uran – then riding for Team Sky – inherited the leadership when initial team leader Bradley Wiggins was forced to withdraw in Treviso. The Colombian took well to the responsibility and took an overall second-place finish behind Astana's Vincenzo Nibali.
“Last year I was with Sky and this year I'm with Omega,” smiled Uran, when asked about the main difference between his form last year and now.
“My condition is good this year,” he added. “I had good condition last year too, but this time I'm a captain and I've got a team built around me. We're at this Giro to win and we're in a good position.”
Uran currently leads second placed Cadel Evans (BMC) by 37 seconds, Tinkoff – Saxo's Rafal Majka by 1:52 and Movistar's Nairo Quintana by 3:29, as the Alps are next with summit finishes at Oropa and Montecampione.
The time gaps are substantial and Uran seems to enjoy the form of his life, but the 27-year-old did what he could to play down ideas that he can now not be caught.
“No, no, no. There's still a long way to go and every day anything can happen,” Uran declared. “I got a good gap yesterday and that means I'm going well but Quintana, Pozzovivo and Majka are still there. It seems a big gap but in the end it's nothing.”
Saturday's stage will evoke memories of Marco Pantani's showing at Oropa a decade and a half ago, when the diminutive rider passed 49 riders after he had to stop at the foot of the final climb to realign his chain.
Uran, however, denied that the upcoming stage would mean more than any other stage.
“For me, every stage means something. I have a lot of respect for the Giro. We're doing quite a beautiful stage tomorrow and we'll see how it goes.”
The Colombian climber surprised everyone when he moved into the lead after a superb time trial from Barberesco to Barolo, with the other favourites, Cadel Evans and Nairo Quintana, losing 1:34 and 2:41 to the OPQS rider.
However, the final week of the Giro takes place in terrain almost exclusively suited to climbers and Uran will face a battle to keep his lead.
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