He was about to sprint for victory on the Via Roma after showing incredible form and freshness in the finale, then suddenly he found himself on the ground after a fatal touch of wheels. As Arnaud Demare (FDJ) sprinted to victory, he could only pick himself up and ride through the chaos of the finish and head to the team bus.
"I am very sad about what happened. It was my fault, I was in a perfect position but then I lost my focus for two seconds, because I began thinking on how to sprint. I touched the wheel of the guy in front of me. That was enough to throw away all the hard work of the team," he said, after being consoled by directeur sportif Davide Bramati and his teammates. He wore sunglasses as he spoke to a small huddle of journalists, including Cyclingnews, to hide his eyes swollen from crying on the team bus.
"I missed an important opportunity and so I have really mixed feeling. On the other hand I'm happy that I had good legs and could cope with a 300km long race, I felt good throughout the day. Then I'm sad because of the crash and that I couldn't finish off the work he team did. It's not my wounds that hurt, they're only superficial, it's the outcome that is more painful, especially as I was thinking of this race since January."
Etixx-QuickStep is used to winning races but could only rue what could have been without Gaviria's crash and another spill that saw Zdenek Stybar go down on the Cipressa due to a loose dog. He chased the peloton but failed to get back on and finished 12:53 behind Demare. Julien Vermote was taken out in the big pile-up that included Michael Matthews.
"It's a real pity. We're really sorry that it finished that way. We lost everything in the final moment," Bramati explained.
"Gaviria touched the wheels with the rider in front of him and went down. There was nothing he could do. He's really sorry and so are we, we don't blame him. We raced for him and did everything we could. Tactically, the team raced really well. We had three guys at the front in the final kilometres, and we could have had four without Styby's crash. We chased down Kwiatkowski, we chased down Cancellara but then the crash happened. That's life, that's racing, that's Milan-San Remo.
"Fernando came really close to writing history today, and even though he didn't win, other opportunities will come for him for sure, as he has a very bright future ahead."