After 19 years as a professional cyclist, Rigoberto Urán has announced that this season will be his last. The news puts to bed the career uncertainty that Urán was grappling with a few weeks ago, and will bring the curtain down on a trailblazing career.
Over the course of his time in the sport, Urán journeyed from humble beginnings to the pinnacle of cycling – his palmarès includes a silver medal at the London Olympics, second overall at the Tour de France (2017) and two editions of the Giro d’Italia (2013, 2014), stage wins at all three Grand Tours, and the adoration of those back in his homeland.
“As a cyclist, I believe the time has come to say: we have reached the end,” Rigo said in a press release, his remarks given before the Tour Colombia at which he finished fourth overall. “It has taken me a long time to come to this decision. It is something I have thought long and hard about. The truth is that it is scary. Cycling has given me everything in life. For almost 23 years, my aim was to get up, eat breakfast, and ride my bike. I was a part of a team that took me to the major races around the world. Now that is going to end.”
Urán’s career is a demonstration of the transcendent power of perseverance through cycling. He shared a love of cycling with his father, who was killed by paramilitaries when Rigo was just 14 years old. While providing for his family, Urán focused on his sport and set his sights on a professional career, aided by his local cycling club and others who supported his development. When his racing took him to Europe, Urán chose to pay it forward, regularly hosting young Colombians hoping to follow in his steps.
Over the many long years of his career, Urán has raced for Caisse d’Epargne, Team Sky, Quick-Step, and, since 2016, variations of EF Pro Cycling. In his nine seasons with EF, Urán became something of a team talisman – its “leader and inspiration”, in the words of the team press release announcing his retirement. At home and abroad, Urán is perhaps the definitive Colombian cyclist, drawing chanting crowds wherever he goes. In Colombia he transcends cycling – there is an 80-episode telenovela about his life on TV, he has his own clothing line and stores, is the host of a gran fondo, owns restaurants, and has a vast social media following.
Those business ventures will continue into his retirement, but Urán will first pour his energy into his final season. “I’m going to try to enjoy it, give my best in the races, and race every one like it is my last,” he said. “This season will be a thank you, a thank you very much. I only have gratitude for the team, for all the people, all the many coaches and many teammates who were always there to help me over the past 20-plus years.”
With Urán’s retirement comes both gratitude and sadness. “I’m going to miss Rigo,” EF Pro Cycling team boss Jonathan Vaughters said. “The team is going to miss Rigo. He is the foundation of what we have built. Of course, he will thrive in retirement, and I’m sure he will find ways to express his passion and personality away from racing. But we will miss his charisma and leadership. Rigo is a great cyclist, no doubt. But what made him special in our team is that he’s also a great person.”
Urán’s final race is still to be decided, an EF spokesperson told Escape Collective, although Urán has previously hinted that he will hang up his bike after the Paris Olympics road race on August 3.
Until that last race, Urán will remain a calm, charismatic figure in the EF Pro Cycling bus, mobbed by a sea of Colombian fans. “Who was going to know that that boy, in Urrao, with that story, that hard-working boy thrown into adulthood could be an inspiration to so many people,” Urán reflected. “Really, if one is able to help someone to change a habit, to improve their life, I think he has done a great job.”
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