Gaviria continues dream Giro d'Italia debut with third stage win

Fernando Gaviria's dream Grand Tour debut in the Giro d'Italia continued apace on Thursday as the Quick-Step Floors sprinter blasted to a third victory at the end of the 2017 race's longest stage.

"I could never have imagined this level of success in my first Grand Tour," Gaviria said afterwards. "I thought I'd maybe get one stage win, at most, because this is a new experience for me. To get so many wins is something fantastic."

After winning as part of an echelon on stage 3 in Cagliari and in a chaotic bunch sprint in Messina two days later, Gaviria's third victory in the 2017 Giro d'Italia was arguably the most straightforward so far. There had been a moment of concern when Max Richeze, his lead-out man, punctured near the finish. But as the peloton swung through a series of sweeping bends in the final kilometre in Reggio Emilia on Thursday, Richeze was back up there, well-positioned at the head of the pack behind two Bora-Hansgrohe riders, with Gaviria in fourth place and poised to pounce.

"I was a little worried because Max' work is very important, I was hoping he could get back and he did a great job, which I could then build on," Gaviria explained after storming across the finish line more than half a bike length clear of Jakub Marezcko (Wilier Triestina - Selle Italia). Gaviria's latest win has also enabled the Colombian to increase his already considerable advantage on Jesper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) in the Giro d'Italia's points competition, with an advantage of 253 points to 167 over the Belgian.

With Gaviria dominating the Giro d'Italia sprints for now - and another opportunity coming up on Friday - the media's questions to the Colombian are increasingly focussed on how well Gaviria can handle the mountains of the third week. Gaviria has repeatedly said he wants to finish the Giro d'Italia, unlike some other sprinters who are widely expected to quit on Saturday.

"It's harder to win," Gaviria said when asked whether it was harder to get through the Giro's mountain stages or be victorious in one of the race's sprints. But he looked understandably astonished when a journalist asked him if he would, after Friday, be working more for Quick-Step Floors GC contender Bob Jungels in the third week or trying to get through to Milan himself.

"If I could get up the Mortirolo with the climbers I'd help him, but that's not going to happen," Gaviria wryly observed, "I can't do that. Normally, as soon as the flag goes down at the start of the mountain stage, there will be a gruppetto forming with the sprinters in it, and I'll be part of it.

"I'm going to try to take the mountain stages as calmly as possible because I know in the flat stages I've got to be up there and go for the wins."

Gaviria's father, Hernando, who is a cycling trainer for juniors back in Colombia, and his sister Juliana and brother-in-law Fabian, both top track racers, are all present on the Giro d'Italia and the Colombian was asked how much extra motivation them visiting the race meant for him.

"Wherever I'm racing, it's always for my family, whether they're actually there in person or not," Gaviria answered. "My father lives and breathes for cycling, so having him here was the nicest present I could think of for him." And for all of his family, watching Gaviria rack up the wins in the Giro d'Italia, with Reggio Emilia the 20th of his short but hugely successful professional career, must surely be the icing on the cake.

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