Fernando Gaviria's Tour of Turkey came to an early end Tuesday when the Quick-Step Floors sprinter hit the ground in a crash with 4km remaining in stage 1, fracturing his right collarbone and closing the curtain on his season.
"On Wednesday, the 24-year-old Colombian will fly to Belgium, where he will undergo further examination at the AZ Herentals Hospital, which will determine if an operation is required," Quick-Step Floors said in a statement sent to media. "But what’s certain at this point is that he is forced to call it a season a few days earlier than planned."
The 150km opening stage that started and finished in Konya was a day for the sprinters, and Quick-Step went into the stage with designs on leading out their Colombian fast man. Things went to plan as the Belgian team pulled back the day's six-rider breakaway 15km from the finish and then lined up for Gaviria.
That tactic unravelled, however, as another rider seemed to come in front of Gaviria and bring him down. The team quickly reshuffled to put Max Richeze first across the line for the win and first leader's jersey.
“The plan was to go for the sprint with Fernando, but unfortunately he crashed and we had to quickly change our tactics so Alvaro [Hodeg] would be the last man of our sprint train," Richeze said. "In the last corner, Alvaro lost my wheel as he had to straighten his line in order not to crash, which meant I took a gap of 30 meters and went with all I had without looking back.”
Gaviria finished the stage but was seen nursing his right shoulder as he came over the line several minutes later. The team will now shift focus to supporting Hodeg and Richeze on the multiple sprint stages remaining.
“I am very happy for this victory," Richeze said. "It’s my last race of the season and on WorldTour level, so it means a lot to me, but it’s a real pity Fernando crashed and broke his collarbone. I know how disappointed he is to end his season like that and I wish him to heal fast.
"I came here to work for Fernando, and if not him, Alvaro, so this win comes as a nice surprise. There will be other sprint opportunities this week and with Alvaro being the fastest on the team now, I will be there to help him.”
Gaviria's future with the team remains uncertain, as Quick-Step recently granted him permission to talk to other teams while General Manager Patrick Lefevere looked for title sponsor for next season. If Lefevere was unable to find a sponsor, he would have been forced to nullify several rider contracts due to financial restraints, and Gaviria was duly shopped around by his agent.
Lefevere announced on Monday that he had signed Belgian window manufacturer Deceuninck to a multi-year sponsorship deal, leaving Gaviria's status with the team in limbo.
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