Fernando Gaviria says that he believes he is clear of the knee problems that plagued him at the end of last season. Gaviria was forced to abandon the Tour of Britain in September last year just a day after winning a stage due to "pre-patellar friction syndrome in his right knee." The injury would also rule him out of the under 23 road race at World Championships later in the month.
Speaking ahead of his first race of the season the Tour de San Luis, Gaviria said that, for now, his knee is no longer troubling him. "I am really happy at the moment because my knee is in a good condition," said Gaviria in San Luis on Saturday. "I don't have any pain at the moment. Maybe when the race starts, I will have a bit of pain in the legs but that is normal for everyone."
Gaviria is about to embark on his first season as a full-time professional rider, returning to the race that he made his name at 12 months ago. An up and coming star on the track, Gaviria had previously put in some good results on the road but had predominantly been focussing on the velodrome. That was until his two stage wins over Mark Cavendish at last year's Tour de San Luis threw him into the spotlight and ultimately earned him his contract with Etixx-QuickStep.
The Colombian has arrived in San Luis with significantly more fanfare than he did in 2015, taking part in the pre-race press conferences that are reserved for the "stars" of the race. Sat between World Champion Peter Sagan and Team Sky's Elia Viviani, the 21-year-old Colombian seemed a little star struck.
"Riding together with these champions like Sagan and Viviani makes me feel really honoured, and this experience makes me fall in love with cycling again, I want to learn a lot of things from them," Gaviria said. "I want to thank my team for having asked me to take part in this race. Being here is really special as it is the competition which let me turn professional."
While he may have seemed to be a little awed by his companions in the press conference, he proved that it wasn't a problem and he is hoping to do what he did to Cavendish last season, and beat them. "It was a really great year and this year I am hoping for the same. I have prepared well and I arrive at this race in good shape, and I hope that I will be able to take a great victory."
Gaviria has a packed schedule planned for his first season as a professional, which will include his first monument, his first taste of the Belgian Classics. His main focus will be the road in the early part of the year, but hasn't left the track behind completely and is targeting a spot at the Olympic Games in Rio where he could go up against his sprint rivals on the road in the Omnium.
"After San Luis I will return to Colombia for the national championships. When I arrive in Europe in February, I will race Haut Var and La Provance. Then I hope to gain selection for the Colombian team at the track World Championships," he said.
"Later I will go to San Remo, and then I will travel to Belgium to do one or two classics and then I will return to Colombia before I go to do California, and then I hope to do the Olympic Games."