Peter Sagan and Fernando Gaviria are rivals in the sprints but they are also good friends off the bike. They go shoulder-to-shoulder at 70 kph but they also train together and hang out when they're both in Monte Carlo. Their friendship and mutual respect are only put aside when the finish line approaches.
"In the races, you compete against everyone but in normal life, things should be different, right?" Sagan suggested at the Vuelta a San Juan after finishing second to Gaviria on stage 4, and before the final sprint stages of the race on Saturday and Sunday.
"For sure we're friends. I first started to speak to Fernando two years ago, and we became friends; when we're in the cycling world but also outside of cycling. We both live in Monaco and it's always a pleasure when we can meet for dinner or some drinks together."
Gaviria helped arrange a holiday for Sagan and his friends in November and they both work with rider agent Giovanni Lombardi.
Sprinters are not often friends; their competitive spirit and adrenaline-fuelled aggression in sprints can lead to conflicts and falls outs. Sagan and Gaviria are perhaps not as highly strung as some of their rivals, and so are able to be competitors on the bike but friends out of the saddle. They are unlikely to be overly aggressive against each other in the sprints and they share tactical information when it can be mutually beneficial.
Sagan revealed how their friendship turned into a champagne challenge at the Tour de France.
"Before the Tour de France started we met up and I told him that for every stage he wins, he's got to buy a bottle of Dom Pérignon champagne, and that I'd buy a bottle for every stage I won. In the end, we won six stages," Sagan revealed.
"Of course, we drank the champagne, it's not there just to look at … We drank some in Colombia and I've got some bottles for when Fernando is back in Monaco."
Sagan turned 29 on January 26, while Gaviria is 24. Crashes and injury have delayed Gaviria's debut in the cobbled Classics but he appears to be following Sagan's career trajectory and is expected to evolve from a successful sprinter to become a Classics winner and possible future world champion.
Sagan is a friend but says that he is not a mentor; suggesting that Gaviria has to experience the Classics first hand if he wants to be successful on the cobbles.
"It's difficult to pass on experience because every year, every race is different. He needs to ride the races and experience them himself. There's a difference between being told something and living the moment yourself," Sagan said.
Knowing his words could be taken out of context, Sagan avoids giving his opinion on Gaviria's move from QuickStep to UAE Team Emirates.
He indicated that they have become friends because they share a similar outlook on life. "Who knows what the right thing is? So far things are going well for him, so why not change teams?" Sagan said.
"Life is about making changes. Fernando knows that, too."