As the Colombian national track coach for the past 15 years, Jose Julian Velasquez knows exceptional cycling talent when he sees it. That's why the current Team Medellin director told Cyclingnews this week that he's not surprised to see former pupil Fernando Gaviria transfer his track success to the road.
It's not the Colombian sprinter's physical prowess that drives Gaviria's success, Velasquez said, but his attitude. Velasquez saw this first-hand while coaching Gaviria on the track at the Pan American Games in Toronto, at the Olympic Games in Rio and for two World Championships, in London and in Paris.
"Fernando has so much potential, and not just physically, but mentally, too," Velasquez said. "The power in Fernando is his mentality. He has a winner's mentality, a champion's mentality. He only wants to win races, win stages.
"For me, that's the reason he beats the other riders. He works to win. I know all riders work to win, but he's special," he said of the UAE Team Emirates rider.
In his other role as director of Team Medellin – a Colombian Continental team that consistently places near the top of the UCI Americas Tour – Velasquez is hoping to put together a schedule for his team this year that includes several US races, including the Joe Martin Stage Race in Arkansas, the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico and the Tour of Utah.
Velasquez has been working with the race organisers to secure the invitations. Utah and Gila seem likely, but he's still working on the Joe Martin race.
"In Utah I have been talking with Kevin Livingston, and he said the team selections will be made in two weeks," Velasquez said.
"I love the races in the United States. For me, the nicest race is the Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend, Oregon. It's the most beautiful place in the world. I was there three years ago, four years ago and five years ago with the Colombian national track team to prepare for the Olympics and World Cups.
"We did Altoona two years ago," Velasquez added. "Last year, the team was in North Carolina, in Winston-Salem. I received an invitation again this year, but I think there are problems with the roads in town in Winston-Salem."
Former Team Medellin rider Jonathan Klever Caicedo, who signed with EF Education First for this year, took sixth in the Winston-Salem race last year. The team is also the current home of Oscar Sevilla, the former Grand Tour contender who, aside from two years with Rock Racing in 2008 and 2009, has been racing in South America since being linked to the Operacion Puerto investigation more than a decade ago.
Velasquez told Cyclingnews Sevilla will be on the roster for the US races if the team makes the cut.