Rigoberto Urán has confirmed that 2024 will be his final season as a professional rider. The EF Education-EasyPost rider made the announcement on Sunday evening, hours after the end of the Tour Colombia.
Urán had already indicated his intention to retire in November, but he appeared to row back on that idea in recent weeks, revealing that EF had offered him a two-year contract extension and insisting that no decision had yet been taken. All week, however, Colombian television station RCN had teased a Sunday night interview with Urán under the tagline: “What is Rigo going to say?”
Ultimately, Urán announced that he would finish his career after 19 seasons in the professional peloton. His EF Education-EasyPost team released a statement to coincide with his RCN interview.
“As a cyclist, I believe the time has come to say: we have reached the end,” Urán said. “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 had spoken of his fear of retirement in an interview with Cyclingnews at the Tour Colombia.
“It’s not easy, and a lot of people have struggled with it, not just in cycling but in every sport,” he explained then. “You often spend more nights in the year sharing a room with a teammate than with your wife. It’s a life where you have lots of people doing everything for you. And when you finish, you don’t have that anymore.”
Urán placed fourth overall at the Tour Colombia and EF won the team prize. He was acclaimed raucously by the crowds on Bogotá’s Carrera 7 when he took to the podium on Sunday afternoon, by which point word of his imminent retirement announcement had already begun to spread.
“I’m going to try to enjoy it, give my best in the races, and race every one like it is my last,” Urán 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.”
The 37-year-old is scheduled to race O Gran Camiño later this month, and he indicated in his interview with Cyclingnews that he hoped to ride a top-level programme in 2024, including Paris-Nice, the Volta a Catalunya and the Tour de France.
Urán moved directly from junior racing to the professional ranks when he signed for Tenax in 2006, and he highlighted his talent with a stage win at the following year’s Tour de Suisse, when he was racing for Unibet.
He later for rode for Caisse d’Epargne, Team Sky and QuickStep, before joining Slipstream ahead of the 2016 season.
Urán claimed a silver medal in the road race at the London 2012 Olympics and he went on to place second overall at the Giro d’Italia in both 2013 and 2014, controversially losing out to compatriot Nairo Quintana on the latter occasion.
His finest hour came in 2017, when he placed second overall at the Tour de France after claiming a dramatic stage win in Chambéry. He completed a full set of Grand Tour stage wins with a victory on the 2022 Vuelta a España.
Urán emerged during something of a golden age for Colombian cycling. Although Quintana and 2019 Tour winner Egan Bernal claimed bigger prizes, Urán was arguably the nation’s most popular rider, both for his riding style and his memorable post-race interviews, which were peppered with phrases unique to his department of Antioquia.
“Rigo is always the same person,” Urán told Cyclingnews last week when asked to explain his popularity. “He’s original and authentic, he knows cycling is important, but it’s not the only thing in life. I think the people like this, they like that there’s a rider who’s been around for a long time and, even if he hasn’t won an awful lot, he has been entertaining.”
Urán’s popularity has soared still further in recent months thanks to an 80-episode telenovela based on his life, which has run in primetime on RCN. A reality television show about his life is also in production, with the cameras trailing him on the Tour Colombia.
“Not even the Tour de France had this much of an impact,” Urán explained. “Everywhere I go, I have children telling me they want to be like me, whether it’s in their studies or in cycling or in football. Everything.”
Urán’s business interests, meanwhile, include a clothing line, restaurants and his popular sportive, Go Rigo Go.