Fernando Gaviria, as expected, has signed a contract with UAE Team Emirates, after reaching an agreement to leave Quick-Step Floors a year early. The Colombian signed a three-year deal with his new team, reportedly earning more than he would have with the Belgian team.
On Wednesday, Quick-Step Floors manager Patrick Lefevere confirmed that the sprinter was leaving the team, having ended his contract by mutual agreement. Due to financial difficulties, Lefevere told Gaviria in the summer that he could look around for a new team. Even though the team now has a new sponsor, Deceuninck, for 2019, Lefevere still let Gaviria go, indicating that he couldn’t match the UAE offer and preferring to spend the cost of Gaviria's contract in other ways.
Gaviria, 24, has already joined his new team for a training camp in the United Arab Emirates through October 30.
“With the new jersey, I’m not going to hide my desires and I want the biggest wins. I’m happy to be able to race with my countrymen Henao, Muñoz and Molano,” he said in the team press release. “Thanks to the UAE Team Emirates for the faith it put in me.”
Gaviria won nine sprints this season, including two stages in the Tour de France, where he wore the leader’s jersey for one day after winning the opening stage. He also won three stages at the Tour of California, again winning the first stage to take the leader’s jersey, as he also did in his season opener, the Vuelta a San Juan. His best performance was at the Colombia Oro y Paz in February, where he won the first three stages.
HIs season ended with a broken collarbone in a crash in the Tour of Turkey earlier this month.
Shuffling his sprinters to optimise his team budget is nothing new to Lefevere, who let Marcel Kittel move to Katusha-Alpecin this time last year in order to bump Gaviria up the pecking order. His decision was fully justified as replacement Elia Viviani turned out to be the star sprinter of 2018, winning 18 races. Gaviria's exit will be softened by the emergence of fellow Colombian Alvaro Hodeg and Dutchman Fabio Jakobsen, both of whom have won multiple races, including at WorldTour level, in outstanding neo-pro campaigns.
Quick-Step Floors have already said goodbye to Tour of Flanders champion Niki Terpstra, as well as Laurens De Plus, Max Schachmann, and Jhonatan Narvaez as they tried to reduce their budget, while their only signings for 2019 so far are a pair of neo-pros in double Junior world champion Remco Evenepoel and the Dane Mikkel Honoré.