Fernando Gaviria has picked up his love affair with Argentinean races where it left off last year, when he won two stages at the Vuelta a San Juan. On Sunday, the 23-year-old claimed stage 1 of the 2018 edition of the race in Pocito with a dominant display of sprinting prowess, easily outpacing the competition and laying down the gauntlet for his rivals over the coming week.
Gaviria blasted into professional cycling’s consciousness in 2015 at the Tour de San Luis, beating Mark Cavendish twice in the race and later signing a contract with Quick-Step, Cavendish’s team at the time. He returned to San Luis in 2016 and took out another stage, then added a brace of wins in last year’s Vuelta a San Juan.
Asked how he’s developed as a sprinter since his first breakthrough win at San Luis, the Colombian said it was all attitude and hard work.
"I always want to win," Gaviria said in the press conference after stage 1. "I always try to win, and I always try to do things well. Three years ago when I came here in Tour de San Luis I won two stages and then when [Peter] Sagan was here I also won.
"I always ride to win. It’s the only thing in my mind. In all the races that I have a number on my back I always want to try to win."
And win he does. The talented speedster has piled up 24 more wins since his heady days of beating Cavendish in 2015, blossoming into one of cycling’s top sprinters and seizing the reins at Quick-Step after first Cavendish and then Marcel Kittel moved on.
With Quick-Step he has found a solid team to back him, and the team’s support of and faith in his talent has paid off. Gaviria’s faith in his team has served him well, too. He relied on his team to set him up for the win on Sunday, as Iljo Keisse delivered him to the line despite contracting the stomach bug that has already knocked Bahrain-Merida’s Vincenzo Nibali and Mark Padun out of the race.
"Keisse is very important, but not only for me, but also for all the Quick-Step team," Gaviria said. "He is a rider that can see the races very well, and he knows in what moment to take the action and in what moment you have to be calm and relaxed and wait.
"He does a lot with the mind, with the head. Sometimes he doesn’t have the legs or maybe he’s not in a good condition, but in his mind he’s always believing that he can do something and he does. This morning he had a lot of troubles in his stomach, but at the end of the stage he was the strongest one of us."
Gaviria made Sunday’s win look easy, taking off with 200 metres to go and handily beating Niccolo Bonifazio (Bahrain-Merida) and Matteo Pelucchi (Bora-Hansgrohe). It was his third win at the Vuelta San Juan and his sixth in Argentina, but he bristled at the notion that the country is a lucky place for him.
"The only thing I know is that I train a lot, this year especially," he said. "I have trained a lot more than in the past because I feel that I have more responsibility with the team. So that means I have to be more professional.
"I have to be more with my Quick-Step teammates. They see me like a leader and they have a lot of confidence in me. I have a lot of things to answer with them, so I have to be more professional. This winter I have prepared very well. I have trained a lot, and I think this victory demonstrates that."
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