It did not take long for the partnership of Fernando Gaviria and Alexander Kristoff to reap rewards for UAE Team Emirates. At the first time of asking, the latter led out the former to victory on a tricky second stage of the UAE Tour.
Kristoff was the team's main sprinter in 2018 but has had to share his ambitions with Gaviria, who joined from Quick-Step Floors over the winter. On Monday's stage, Kristoff was the last man for Gaviria, dropping him off with 200 metres to go before swinging off and slowing down rival Caleb Ewan for good measure. Gaviria made the most of the effort, edging out former teammate Elia Viviani to take his third win of the season, showing that the respiratory illness that forced him out of the Tour Colombia 2.1 had not held him back.
"Kristoff did a really good job. He's also one of the best sprinters in the world and the lead out he did today was the best, he did a really good job," Gaviria spoke in his rapidly improving English. "It's a very special victory for me, for the whole team and for the sponsors. We are racing here at home, we look for victories anywhere in the world but today we could sprint in perfect conditions."
Early on, it appeared that it would be a straightforward sprint stage as the riders soft pedalled it and allowed the breakaway more than 10 minutes of an advantage. However, the threat of crosswinds was always looming over them and caused chaos in the bunch with just over 100 kilometres to go. The group came back together but there was still a headwind to tackle in the finishing straight.
"There was wind all day, but it was a strange wind because in one minute the peloton would drop back in some parts but after a few kilometres everybody would come back together," he said. "In the sprint, it was pretty normal because I start the sprint with 200 metres to go. It was a really difficult sprint because there was a headwind and the team did a good job, I had good legs for the final and I was able to take the victory here."
Of the sprinters in action at the UAE Tour, Gaviria now leads the way in terms of victories this season with three, ahead of Viviani's two. Asked if he considered himself the best sprinter in the world Gaviria did not want to stake that claim on that title, saying that it was an evermoving target.
"I am one of the best sprinters in the world because I have some good results, but it's hard to make a list of who is the best and second best because within two weeks it can change completely," Gaviria said. "I'm not looking at the future, I am only looking at the moment and I want to win now. I've trained a lot to win and I hope that I can win a lot this year."