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“We tried to set up a balanced group, capable of staying in the action in every race situation, even if our main focus will be on the mountains where our top athletes can show their best qualities. We are going to the Giro to show off...

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DARWIN ATAPUMA

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FABIO ANDRES DUARTE

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GIRO D'ITALIA

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LEONARDO DUQUE

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01.05.2013 @ 10:58 Posted by Jesper Johannesen

This year's Giro marks the return of a Colombian grand tour and the expectations for the South American team in the mountain stages are high. Fabio Duarte and Darwin Atapuma have the task of animate the racing on the steep slopes while the team hopes to see Leonardo Duque and Edwin Avila in the mix in the sprints.

 

The Colombia team was one of the big winners when the wild cards for the Giro were handed out in May. Up against powerhouse teams like IAM and NetApp-Endura, organizers RCS Sports were attracted by the idea of the return of a Colombian team to the Giro's steep climbs and the South American team was awarded one of the four coveted places.

 

The many great performances by Colombian riders in the mountains - and the fantastic season start from the country's best riders Sergio Henao, Nairo Quintana and Carlos Betancur which has elevated the country into 2nd position in the world rankings - have created huge expectations around the team which is expected to put on an offensive show in the mountains. Nobody expects the team to fight for the overall win but it would be a disappointment not to see the team deliver an aggressive showing when the roads point upwards.

 

Darwin Atapuma and Fabio Duarte have been tasked with the job of representing the team in the high mountains in the last part of the race. Both have had low-key performances in the early part of the season and especially Duarte has not shown much sign of promise. Atapuma gave some signs of life with a 7th place in the Tour of Turkey and the hope is that a long training camp in Colombia in April will start to pay dividends in the near future.

 

The two captains will be supported by Robinson Chalapud and Jarlinson Pantano on the steep slopes as both have shown good form this season. Meanwhile, Carlos Julian Quintero will be a key support rider and the man to go on the offensive in a long breakaway.

 

Despite the team's climbing pedigree the team also hopes to be competitive in the bunch sprints and two fast men have been included in the line-up. Veteran Leonardo Duque who has had a number of top 10 places in sprint in his no less than 10 grand tour participations will be experienced part of the duo while young Edwin Avila will try to learn as much as possible from the big bunch kicks in the race. He finished 9th in the first mass sprint in the Tour of Turkey.

 

Dalivier Ospina and Wilson Marentes will be the team's allround riders who will support Duarte and Pantano throughout the stages while they will also come in handy when the sprinters have to be brought into position.

 

“The Giro is the core fixture of our season, and a race all of those guys have been dreaming of since their childhood," general manager Claudio Corti said."Still everybody knows what the rules are, and our mission is to pick the best and most suited line-up for this three-week effort."

 

“We tried to set up a balanced group, capable of staying in the action in every race situation, even if our main focus will be on the mountains, where our top athletes can show their best qualities," he continued. "We are going to the Giro to show off and put up a big show, that is what everyone is expecting from us.”

 

Many had hoped that the team's rising star, Johan Esteban Chaves who won the Tour de l'Avenir in 2011 and triumphed in the queen stage of the Vuelta a Burgos last year in his debut season as a professional, would be part of the team's line-up but a dramatic crash in February's Trofeo Laigueglia left him with a severe arm injury. He has not recovered in time and the team will have to do without their most talented climber.

 

 “We are really disappointed not to have Esteban in the mix, and it’s not only because he is a strong man, definitely suited to the Giro route," Corti explained. "He is a serious and committed athlete, and was really looking forward to this race, but he is taking it with great maturity, realizing he will have many other opportunities in his career: now he needs to recover completely, as we care about the man and his health in first place."

 

Starting on Saturday you can follow all stages of the Giro d'Italia on CyclingQuotes.com/live.

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