Fernando Gaviria's first full cobbled Classics campaign got off to an inauspicious start at the 'opening weekend' in Belgium, with the Colombian admitting he struggled in the freezing temperatures.
The 23-year-old, already one of the world's best bunch sprinters but also touted as a potential Classics great, rode just Dwars door Vlaanderen and Gent-Wevelgem in his first two seasons as a pro. In 2018, he is set to ride a full spring Classics programming, including debuts at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
Both results were affected by a crash in the closing phases of Omloop, caused by a stray bidon in the road between the Muur van Geraardsbergen and Bosberg. He fell on his right hip and, despite starting Kuurne as the bookmaker’s favourite, his discomfort became evident when the race ignited on the Oude Kwaremont. On the Kluisberg he drifted out the back of the fragmenting bunch, pedalling slowly, and it was clear he'd play no further part in the proceedings.
"These races, they were nothing special. Yesterday, I had bad luck – a crash on the downhill off the Muur, but no problems. Today, it was only pain," Gaviria told reporters in Kuurne.
"After the Kwaremont it was not possible to push because I was in a lot of pain. It was better to stop."
After another medical assessment in the team bus in Kuurne, Gaviria said there were no injury worries.
"It's only pain from the crash, but no problems. I will be training tomorrow and next week ahead of Strade Bianche."
As well as the crash, Gaviria made no secret of his struggles with the freezing conditions. The mercury hovered above zero in Flanders for most of the weekend, and the stiff wind blowing on Sunday made it even more biting.
"I've never ridden in weather this cold. It's really really difficult," said Gaviria, who only travelled here from his native Colombia earlier in the week.
"It's really, really cold, and really different. In Colombia you have 20-25 degrees more. It's only one week here in Europe but ok, I try to get a better feeling for the next races."
Gaviria can console himself with the fact that it'll be a little warmer when he comes back to Belgium next month, but miserable conditions are one of the hurdles he'll have to overcome if he's to fulfill that Classics promise hyped up by Tom Boonen, among others.
Gaviria now takes on an Italian block of racing, with Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, and Milan-San Remo, followed closely by a return to Belgium for the cobbles.
"Always here in Belgium you can take some things away. It's really difficult because of the cold, but ok, it's the start of the season, I try for a good condition and hopefully I can go on to win some other things."