Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) will make his first WorldTour start of 2017 this week at Tirreno-Adriatico, where he will be among the top sprinters in a field that also includes Mark Cavendish and Caleb Ewan.
The Colombian took his maiden WorldTour victory in last year's edition of the race, claiming the third stage to Montalto di Castro. With three wins already under his belt in 2017 – two at the Vuelta a San Juan and a third at Volta ao Algarve – Gaviria will take to the start line in Tirreno on Wednesday keen to stretch his legs racing at the highest level, and hoping to get on the board with a top-tier victory as soon as possible.
"The main objective, I think, is to win," he said Tuesday at the pre-race press conference. "I have always said it, that I always want to win. At the moment, we don't know how the legs are, how they will behave, but we hope to race well with our team tomorrow, to have a beautiful stage and a beautiful week."
Gaviria will be without his trusted lead-out man Maximiliano Richeze this week. Not yet recovered from crashing out of Strade Bianche, the Argentine was forced to skip the start at Tirreno. Gaviria acknowledged the difficulty of performing without Richeze, while maintaining that the other members of Quick-Step's line-up should still be plenty effective.
"I think a lot changes [without Richeze]. I think I have quite a lot of confidence with Max because we share the same language, and I am fully confident in him because he knows how to do his job well," he said. "So it's a complicated thing, but we hope that he recovers fast, and I think the team is very strong, replacing him with Iljo Keisse. And Tom Boonen I think is really strong, because he is nearing the end of his great career, so I think he is enjoying these last days to the fullest."
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Gaviria followed up his successful 2016 Tirreno-Adriatico campaign with an eventful first Milan-San Remo start. He showed promise, making it to the finale in good position, but then crashed inside the last few hundred metres. Naturally, there's plenty of buzz surrounding Gaviria with less than two weeks remaining until the season's first Monument. Though he emphasised that he was not going to think too much about Milan-San Remo until after the conclusion of Tirreno-Adriatico, he ultimately answered a few questions on the subject on Tuesday.
"It seems to be a demanding race to me," he said. "Last year I enjoyed it, although at the end, what needed to happen happened. I think it was a mistake of arriving after seven hours on the bike. But this year, we will be a bit more prepared, a bit more concentrated until the end."
He seems to have put the final-kilometre crash in the rearview mirror in favour of looking to what's ahead, even demurring when asked for his reaction to the praise of Mark Cavendish, who had suggested that Gaviria would have won last year's race but for the fall.
"I understand what Mark said, but the race had to finish this way. Arnaud Démare won. There's nothing to think about," he said. "There's nothing to say except that the race happened in this way and he was the fortunate one that had the opportunity to win Milan-San Remo last year."
In any case, he emphasised he mostly just wants to win races—first in the sprint stages that await in Tirreno, and then at Milan-San Remo.
"Nothing has changed. I want to win Milan-San Remo. I want to do it well and we hope that on the 18th, the day of the race, we hope to feel good and to do a beautiful race with all the riders that are going to participate."