Gaviria makes no compromise on gold as Olympic debut approaches

'You can never rule Cavendish out'

Fernando Gaviria (Etixx-QuickStep) says that despite a lack of experience, he has no intention whatsoever of lowering his sights on omnium gold in his first ever participation in the Olympic Games.

Gaviria’s achievements on the road, winning a stage at Tirreno-Adriatico, his first ever WorldTour race, and making it into the finale of Milan-San Remo at the age of 21 this spring, have threatened to overshadow his already considerable success on the track. These include back-to-back victories in the omnium at the World Track Championships in 2015 and 2016, as well as a junior world title.

But now it’s onto the Olympics, where Gaviria says he’ll be going for gold despite the Games being unknown territory.

“If you gave me a piece of paper which guaranteed I’d get bronze, I wouldn’t sign it, because I’m somebody who never wants to take the easy option,” Gaviria told Cyclingnews last week.

“I would prefer to finish fourth in the omnium and be lying on the ground exhausted and dizzy after 160 laps than go in with a strategy designed specifically on making the bronze. I want to use every last drop of energy to try and win the Games outright.”

Gaviria reacts courteously when discussing Mark Cavendish’s omnium bid, confirmed last Friday, saying: “You can never rule him out, he’s got too many strong points and he’s a very versatile rider. We’ll have to see how the race develops, though.”

But he quickly changes subject to focusing on his own race strategy, arguing “it’s a race you have to take very calmly, which is going to be anything but easy, because in the Olympics the first three segments of the omnium [scratch race, individual pursuit and elimination race – ed.] are all on the same day.

“The periods of rest between them are going to be a lot smaller, as a result, but I think that could be beneficial for me.”

Gaviria’s build-up to the Games will start with the Tour de Pologne (July 12-18) and then perhaps a one-day race in Belgium, before heading on to Colombia to rest up and train on the track. He says that the mixture of road racing and track racing may well continue after the Games, too, rather than committing specifically to one type of racing. “But that’s a decision that will wait until after Rio. I wanted to do the track Worlds this spring, and I did that, then went back to the road.”

Like Cavendish, too, Gaviria will be targeting the Road World Championships in Qatar, where he will ride the elite men’s race rather than the unde-23 event. “I’m a professional now, and I’ve got to get used to that level of racing as quickly as possible,” Gaviria said. “I want to win a lot of races, and a cyclist’s career is pretty short, so you can’t hang about.”

First though, is Rio, and the double omnium world champion is not the only member of the Gaviria family likely to be present on the track at this year’s Olympic Games. His elder sister Juliana is also targeting the Games, looking to challenge in the keirin and the individual sprint.

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