Gaviria: If you act at the wrong moment, Milan-San Remo is over for you

Ahead of just his second appearance at Milan-San Remo, Fernando Gaviria has been tipped by commentators and fellow riders alike as a hot favourite for the first Monument Classic of the season.

The Quick-Step Floors rider made it to the finale in good position in his 2016 San Remo debut, but crashed in the last kilometre and missed on out a shot at sprinting for victory. Nevertheless, he'll toe the start line Saturday as a bona fide contender, having proven his form this season with four impressive victories. All that remains now is to prove that he can read the hectic finale to perfection and sprint effectively after nearly 300 kilometres.

Staying alert on the race's final two climbs, the Cipressa and the Poggio, will be critical.

"I think we can expect more attacks on the Poggio this year," Gaviria said to media this week in Italy. "I think this year Van Avermaet, Kwiatkowski and Sagan will attack on the Poggio. So we will wait to see what happens and how the legs are in the moment."

A track specialist with a powerful finishing kick, Gaviria's best chance for San Remo glory would come in a big bunch sprint on the Via Roma. He's occasionally delivered results in less controlled finales on lumpier profiles in the past, but he knows that in this race and against this field, burning even a little bit of energy trying to follow the wrong move could ruin his chances.

"It's about waiting to see if I am feeling good, if I have the legs, and expecting what happens with the other riders. It's a hard race, so you have to be expecting the key moment to act, because if you act at the wrong moment, the race is over for you," he said.

The 22-year-old Colombian sees the tricky descents that follow the Cipressa and the Poggio as a 'fundamental' challenge, where the race can be won or lost. Gaviria noted that the many curves of the Poggio might make it difficult to actually build an advantage there, but closing down even a small gap on such a descent will be just as hard.

"If there is a strong rider that has an advantage of five or ten seconds and the legs, I think he can win," Gaviria said.

In any case, Gaviria is hungry to put his training and speed to the test. Twelve months after his frustrating debut, he insists he is not wasting energy reliving 2016.

"The past doesn't interest me," he said, preferring to concentrate on what lies ahead — especially considering that his rivals and his loved ones alike will all be watching Saturday.

"The race will be on in Colombia. Some of my friends will be watching, my family will be watching, so I will try to do my best to bring them joy."

Gaviria’s Milan-San Remo preparations were dealt a blow when he injured his right wrist in a training crash on Thursday, but Quick-Step Floors confirmed on Friday morning that the injury would not prevent him from taking part.

“Unfortunately, @FndoGaviria crashed yesterday during training, but despite pain in his right wrist, he will start tomorrow's #MSR,” Quick-Step wrote on Twitter on Friday.

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Dane has been a sports writer and editor for many years, and makes a return to Cyclingnews as a contributor in 2022. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Virginia.