The men’s omnium is one of the most eagerly anticipated events at this week’s UCI Track World Championships, and defending champion Fernando Gaviria has said that he feels no external pressure as he puts his title on the line in London.
The 21-year-old Colombian beat Glenn O’Shea and Elia Viviani to the rainbow jersey in Paris a year ago, and lines up as the favourite this time around, despite facing another top-class field, including Mark Cavendish, this time around.
"Being world champion does not change anything," Gaviria said. “We must be on our guard and do things in the best way. Everybody is putting more pressure on me, but I’m not the only who is on form. All 24 of us participating will be on form, everyone will want to win or get a medal, but only three will be able to stand on the podium.
"I always want to win more, do something new, that's what motivates me each day. I always want to be the best, to work for it, and take the name of Colombia forward and see us as a power in any sport or discipline. "
Gaviria announced his arrival on the world stage by twice defeating Mark Cavendish in bunch sprints at last year’s Tour de San Luis, and he would end the season as part of the same set-up as the Manxman when he joined Etixx-QuickStep in August. Cavendish has since departed for Dimension Data, but the two are set to clash in London this week and – perhaps – in Rio de Janeiro at the 2016 Olympic Games.
"I’ll be racing against a friend. I'll be happy if I win or if he wins. Let the strongest man win," Gaviria said. "But there’s also Viviani, a Frenchman, a Norwegian… Everyone wants to win, this is a World Championship."
Gaviria already has two wins to his name on the road in 2016, claiming a stage victory at the Tour de San Luis in January and another at the inaugural Tour La Provence last week.
"I’m arriving in good shape," Gaviria said of his approach to the Worlds. "The year began in the best way in San Luis, then I did a race in France, and the legs has developing well. I’ve done some testing on the track and I felt good. I hope to have a good feeling, to give a good show and try to come away with a win."
As well as competing in the Omnium on Friday and Saturday, Gaviria will also line out in the Madison on Sunday, partnered by Jordan Parra, where the Colombian duo will face the British pairing of Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins.
Regardless of the outcome of this week’s Omnium, of course, the centrepiece of Gaviria’s 2016 season will be the Rio Olympics, though he was reluctant to cast his mind ahead to August at this juncture.
"We don’t know if we’re going yet. There’s too long to go still, you could have injuries or illness in the meantime," he said. "It’s not good to get too excited by something that’s so far off."