Fernando Gaviria walked out onto the podium at the Tour de France for a second day in a row, waving to the crowds in La Roche-sur-Yon after stage 2 on Sunday. The problem was, he was wearing white – and not yellow.
The 23-year-old had made a sensational start to his debut Tour 24 hours earlier, with victory on the opening day seeing him become only the second Colombian in history to wear the famous maillot jaune as the overall leader of the race.
The commanding nature of it made him a hot favourite to win the similarly flat second stage to La Roche-sur-Yon, and an even firmer bet to extend his stint in yellow to a second day, but a late crash ruled him out and acquainted him with the complications of the Tour after what had been a dream start.
Crucially, Peter Sagan, whom Gaviria had beaten into second on Saturday, avoided the crash and duly went on to win the stage. Although general classification times were neutralised, given the crash occurred in the final three kilometres, the world champion took yellow from Gaviria thanks to bonus seconds.
"We knew it wouldn't last forever," Gaviria said, now wearing the white jersey for best young rider.
"It's something that we wanted to have for a few days, but we had to say goodbye to it on the first day. But there you go. That's cycling; you can't always win.
"I enjoyed the day to the maximum, and now we wait for the next opportunities, and maybe in this Tour there will still be more."
The incident occurred with 1.9km to go as the peloton entered a 90-degree right-hand bend. Mitchelton-Scott’s Daryl Impey went down towards the front of the bunch, causing a number of riders to career into the barriers. Gaviria, glued to the wheel of his lead-out man Max Richeze, was one of the last to go down, and though his impact wasn’t as severe as others’, he had no chance of making it back to the front of the race as a group of around 15 emerged to contest the victory.
"Someone went down on one of the corners, and I couldn't avoid it. I hit the ground, but I'm OK. I'm happy that nothing worse came of it and I was able to finish the stage," he said.
The opening two stages of the Tour de France have both been characterized by chaotic finales, with multiple crashes and punctures in the run-in to the sprint.
Gaviria suggested that the crashes are caused by riders taking too many risks in the closing phases, but that in modern cycling, and perhaps especially so in the Tour de France, that's part of the territory.
"Yes, I'm prepared to take risks in order to win. But other riders maybe risk more than me, and that's why we have crashes, but there you go.
"It's difficult, but that's how cycling is. Increasingly, you have to take more risks in order to win. I think you have to be prepared for crashes, because if you fear crashing then you're not going to win anything."
Gaviria will have to wait until Tuesday and stage 4 for another shot at a stage win, though there's a chance he could be back in yellow on Monday evening. A 35km team time trial awaits, and if Quick-Step, former world champions in the discipline, win it – and Gaviria is one of the four required finishers – he could be back up on that podium as the overall leader of the Tour de France.
"Tomorrow is the team time trial and my team is very strong. We go again tomorrow," he said.
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