Fernando Gaviria admitted to letting the nerves get to him in the opening event of the men’s Omnium at the Track World Championships, but it didn’t take the reigning champion long to return to his fearsome best.
After finishing 10th in the scratch race, the Colombian stormed back to top the individual pursuit before dominating the elimination race in a manner that will have struck fear into his fellow competitors. He now sits joint top of the standings at the halfway stage, tied with Italy’s Elia Viviani.
“It was a difficult day, a day which didn’t get off to the best start but which nevertheless ended brilliantly,” Gaviria told Cyclingnews at the end of the session.
“In the first race I was nervous – it’s seven months since I’ve raced on the track, so I think that’s what held me back a bit, making certain errors. I was much bolder towards the end, and in the two following events it was perfection.”
Gaviria pulled the strings throughout the elimination race, dictating a tempo that suited himself and disrupted others, before cruising away from fellow last man standing Mark Cavendish before a sprint was even on the cards.
“I felt I had really strong legs. And I took the victoy in the best possible way – controlling the race,” he said with a smile. "I’ve never been able to win one at a World Championships, so I’m delighted to be able to do it.”
As for Cavendish himself, the elimination race left him with some cause for optimism at the end of a fairly average day. Fifth in the scratch race (third in the bunch sprint behind the two breakaway leaders), was followed by a disappointing 13th in the individual pursuit and he now finds himself seventh overall.
The time trial events aren’t the Manxman’s strongest suit but he looked to be going well until it turned out he had set off too excitedly, only to fade considerably over the last few laps.
“I think we can be reasonably satisfied overall,” was British Cycling coach Iain Dyer’s assessment. “We were aware that Cav’s strengths were in the bunch races rather than the time trial events, so while the pursuit took him back a bit in the rankings, he’s shown his mettle there and come back very nicely in the devil. He had a very good devil in Hong Kong at the World Cup and he’s followed it up with another gutsy performance.”
In terms of the battle with Gaviria in the elimination, Dyer offered an explanation for the gap that Gaviria managed to open up, saying that Cavendish was confused about the timing of the final sprint.
“There was a little bit of confusion on his part about how the race came to finish. We saw the German [Roger Kluge] didn’t contest the sprint and when you don’t contest the sprint it automatically rolls into the next one,” he said.
“Cav thought he could let the Colombian gap a little bit then reel him in, but then the sprint got called and you’re immediately on the back foot, and you’ve lost that very last sprint.”
Gaviria may be the favourite now given his position on the leaderboard and the form he showed on the opening day. However, the points race has the capacity to change fortunes dramatically, and there is still hope in the British camp.
“With the points race to come, if you think right now he’s in seventh, only 18 points off the lead, that of course puts a lot of people in contention still. With a couple of races before the points race, if he can keep himself in the mix then he’s got a good chance.”
Gaviria was keen to stress how far there is to go in the competition, and also underlined the importance of the points race, picking out a few names who he’s especially wary of after the first day.
“Viviani is very strong, the French guy (Thomas Boudet) won a race [scratch], Mark Cavendish showed in the elimination race that he’s strong. The Dutch guy [Tim Veldt] had a fall and he’s still up there.”