Rigoberto Urán on stage 1 of the Tour de France.

Rigoberto Urán is wrestling with retirement

After a quiet 2023 season for Colombian cycling, Colombian fans suddenly have lots to talk about.

Rigoberto Urán on stage 1 of the 2023 Tour de France.

Dane Cash
by Dane Cash 31.01.2024 Photography by
Kristof Ramon
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Colombian fans did not have a whole lot to celebrate last season, but maybe things are looking up for them now. As three-time Grand Tour runner-up Rigoberto Urán told Buen Día Colombia this week on Colombian network RCN, he is having second thoughts about retiring this year after all.

Urán suggested late in 2023 that after a remarkable 19th professional season he would hang up the wheels after the Olympics this summer in Paris, but according to RCN, he is reconsidering. Maybe.

“I have no idea what is going to happen,” Urán said. “There is a very large environment with my family, my Education First cycling team, my ‘Go, Rigo, go’ team … There are a number of things one has to look at.”

The 37-year-old from Urrao, near Medellín has not stood atop the podium as often recently as he did earlier in his career, and he did not win any pro races last year, although he landed in the top 10 on GC in two WorldTour stage races on the season and is still only a year and a half removed from a stage win and a top 10 overall at the 2022 Vuelta. (That win, incidentally, postponed his earlier thoughts of retiring.)

But success does not come only on the road; over his long career, Urán has grown into a media star in his home country, leveraging his cycling fame into a clothing brand and a telenovela based on his life. Retired Rigo might actually be more lucrative than Racing Rigo and, as of this writing, he still has a retirement press conference scheduled in Bogota for the day after the Tour Colombia next week.

At this point, he sees challenges ahead either way, whether he rides on or calls it a career, and is clearly ambivalent about the choice.

“I am afraid of retirement and of crashes. Everything in life has an end, but I am very afraid of my retirement,” he said with refreshing honesty for a professional athlete. “You have to have psychological help. High-level sportspeople live in a bubble, everything is adapted to you and you get used to that life.

“I also am afraid of accidents. It is hard to see the family suffer. The truth is that I am too old for this sport.”

Urán’s pending decision makes him another in the handful of Colombians making the headlines recently on the heels of a relatively quiet 2023, in which Colombian riders took just eight WorldTour wins, and Santiago Buitrago’s 10th place finish at the Vuelta a España was the country’s best Grand Tour GC result.

In addition to Urán mulling the possibility of continuing on, the rider who beat him in the 2014 Giro d’Italia, Nairo Quintana, is back on the WorldTour with Movistar this season after a yearlong absence. The 33-year-old left Arkéa-Samsic at the end of 2022 after two positive tests for tramadol (prohibited by the UCI although not a WADA anti-doping violation at the time), but last October, Movistar announced his return to the team for 2024. Quintana and Urán will both make their first appearance of the season at the upcoming Tour Colombia, February 6.

Then there is Egan Bernal, who became Colombia’s first Tour de France winner back in 2019 and seemed to be on track to fight for Grand Tour results for years to come until a career-threatening crash two years ago. Just this week, Bernal rode to third place in the road race at the Colombian national championships, and he said afterward that he “felt like the Egan of old.”

If that is true, and with some of his nation’s veteran stars also in the headlines recently, perhaps fans of Colombian cycling will have even more to talk about this season and beyond.

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