Gaviria ready for first sprint showdown at Tirreno-Adriatico

'I've trained well and my form is perfect. It'll be a great sprint to watch'

Fernando Gaviria pulled on the best young rider's white jersey at Tirreno-Adriatico after his Quick-Step Floors team finished fourth in the opening time trial, but the Colombian sprinter confirmed he is in Italy for far bigger goals, starting with the first sprint showdown at the end of Thursday's second stage to Follonica.

Quick-Step Floors have often challenged for victory in the team time trial, finishing second to BMC Racing in 2017. This year they were fourth, 15 seconds slower than BMC and behind Mitchelton-Scott and Team Sky.

Gaviria was part of Quick-Step Floors' four riders who finished in a final time of 22:34, riding a new version of the Specialized Shiv time trial bike. He had ridden Strade Bianche for the first time in his career on Saturday, finishing 49th, and was happy to shake out the pain of the Tuscan gravel roads from his legs.

"This first day of racing was tough because we're still feeling the pain of riding Strade Bianche, and you always have to fight hard in a team time trial to get on the wheel and keep the speed high," Gaviria explained.

"But we're happy with our ride. This white jersey is not really mine, it belongs to the team. We all did a good job, sharing the work and setting a good pace."

Gaviria has already won four sprints this season, winning a stage at the Vuelta a San Juan and three stages at the Colombia Oro y Paz race. He returned to Europe for the opening weekend in Belgium and is using Tirreno-Adriatico as his final preparation for Milan-San Remo and the other spring Classics, where he will have a leadership role alongside Philippe Gilbert.

Quick-Step Floors will target the overall classification at Tirreno-Adriatico with Bob Jungels, while Gilbert, Nikki Terpstra and Zdenek Stybar focus on the hillier stages. Gaviria is the team's designated sprinter and can count on his experienced lead-out man Maximiliano Richeze.

Gaviria won his first ever WorldTour race when he won stage 3 to Montalto di Castro in 2016. He won stage 6 to Civitanova Marche last year and is eyeing stage 2 to Follonica on Thursday. The 167km stage runs parallel to the Tuscan coast as it heads south and ends with three laps of a fast 8.3km circuit.

Gaviria will face serious competition in the sprint from Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin), Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott), world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida), Sacha Modolo (EF Education First-Drapac), Nikias Arndt (Team Sunweb), Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) and Jakub Mareczko (Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia).

"I think it's going to be a sprint in Follonica. I've trained well and my form is perfect. I think I'm ready," Gaviria said, with sprinter's natural confidence followed by a pinch of realism.

"Of course, there's not just one rival, there's a lot. There's Kittel, Sagan and many others. It'll be a great sprint to watch."

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