Fernando Gaviria will start his first season with UAE Team Emirates this month in South America at the Vuelta a San Juan but his heart remains in his home country, where he will ride the Tour Colombia 2.1 February 12-17.
After recovering from an injured shoulder suffered in last year's San Juan race, Gaviria went on to the Colombia Oro y Paz and scored a hat trick of stage wins along with the points jersey. He hopes to match that performance again this year under the race's new name and a new route that goes through his home region.
The race through the Antioquia region of Colombia will traverse roads that Gaviria knows well from his early days of training before he signed with the Colombia-Coldeportes team in 2013. His performance at the 2015 Tour de San Luis in Argentina, where he won two sprint stages ahead of Mark Cavendish, led to his contract with QuickStep for 2016. He stayed with the Belgian squad through last season, racking up 32 more wins along the way, before moving to UAE Team Emirates this season.
"That the Tour Colombia is among my plans is nice because we are going to be in the region where I have trained my whole life, and I think it will be a great show with great riders," Gaviria said in an interview published on the race website.
In Argentina, Gaviria will get the season with his new team rolling against top-tier sprinters like Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), but the race at home in February is important on a more personal level, as it will visit his hometown of Ceja on stage 2.
"It's important," Gaviria said of the stage. "We get very close to my house where I currently live, and that generates a bit of nerves. It is a flat stage. It's a sprint finish and we will do our best to try to win it."
Gaviria said although he's on a new team, his goals remain he same.
"We will try to do things well and win as many stages as we can," he said. "There will be a show in all the categories. The mountain stages are also good for all riders, European and Colombian. We are not going to be as high in elevation or as cold as in Manizales, but they are good stages for [former QuickStep teammates] Jungels and Alaphilippe, who are going to enjoy the race."
Gaviria said he expects a well-run race after the Colombian Federation's inaugural effort last year at the Colombia Oro y Paz.
"It is the second edition, so we are going to find a little more organization," he said. "We will have a little more order in the finishes. Everything will be much more organized. We hope everyone will join us. It will be a nice show that deserves to go out on the streets every day."
After his South American block of racing, Gaviria will head to the Middle East for the UAE Tour, which is now part of the WorldTour, before a tilt at the Spring Classics. Gaviria was fifth in Milan-San Remo in 2017 but he missed the 2018 Classics after fracturing his hand in stage 6 of Tirreno-Adriatico. He and his team are anxious to prove their mettle in the big European races this spring.
"We are focused on the Classics," he said. "We want to win a great Classic to prove that we can win. We are working for it. The Tour de France is amongst the plans, but it's still half a year away. First we'll focus on the Classics."