Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) says that he's fully recovered from the illness that forced him to abandon his home Tour Colombia 2.1 last month. After a strong start to the season at the Vuelta a San Juan, Gaviria left the Colombian race early after developing a respiratory illness.
"I am feeling a lot better a lot has changed and after one week things were a lot easier. I'm OK, I'm ready for the race. We will see what happens," Gaviria told Cyclingnews.
After the small set-back, Gaviria is now in the UAE to test his legs at the first edition of the UAE Tour. There are three sprint stages up for grabs but there is plenty of competition, not least from within his own team. Alexander Kristoff will also be an option for the sprint while Dan Martin is also in the line-up for the general classification.
Kristoff was in good form last week and won the opening stage of the Tour of Oman, but he crashed heavily in the final stage and it remains to be seen how much that took out of him. Gaviria says that he and Kristoff have an equal opportunity to go for each of the sprints but the decision will be taken during the stage and not before.
"We will see what happens in the race and who else has the legs and then take the decision in the last moment. If Kristoff has better legs then we will try with him," explained Kristoff.
Aside from his illness, it doesn't seem that Gaviria has skipped a beat moving from Quick-Step Floors to UAE Team Emirates over the winter. He won two stages at the Vuelta a San Juan, showing the turn of pace that has placed him firmly in the upper echelons of sprinters. At Quick-Step, Gaviria had one of the world’s best lead-out trains. He says that there has been a settling period with his new squad but he’s confident in the team that he has around him.
"It's difficult because now I am riding in a different train," Gaviria said. "Now, with the team, I am really happy because I started the season well in Argentina, afterwards Colombia was not so good but I'm happy with the team. It’s a really strong team with a strong roster. We'll see what happens in the first part of the year and the strength that we have for the bigger races."
The UAE Tour will be a final stretch of racing in the heat for a short while as he heads to Europe in March. A stretch in Italy will come first with Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo, before he goes to Belgium for the cobbled Classics.
It won't be Gaviria's first taste of the cobbles, having raced there with Quick-Step on a number of occasions, but this will be his first major cobbles campaign. He had planned a full complement of races last year, but he was hampered by a fall at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad followed by a crash at Tirreno-Adriatico that left him with a broken finger and forced him to miss more than a month of racing.
"Normally I go to Roubaix and I will do all the Classics before. We’ll see what happens because it’s far away," Gaviria told Cyclingnews. "I’m really happy because I like Roubaix. We tried last year but I broke my finger and then this year we’ll see, I’ll try to stay upright."