Fernando Gaviria (Etixx-QuickStep) had already shown he is one of the best emerging sprinters in professional cycling with six road race victories and back-to-back Omnium world titles on the track. However, his stage 3 sprint victory at Tirreno-Adriatico, ahead of Caleb Ewan and Elia Viviani, highlighted his immense sprinting ability and huge potential for future sprints.
It was not only the fact that he won and whom he beat to the line in Montalto di Castro but how he did it that gathered so much admiration. He moved smoothly around and then past his rivals in the high-speed and hectic finish, and then sprinted to victory with his hands on the top of his brake levers.
Gaviria is still only 21, only speaks Spanish and still a little shy in front of the media but his sprinter’s character and innate self-confidence stand out as much as ability in the sprints.
“No, it’s not a surprise that I won,” he said with total honesty in the post-stage press conference. “We worked hard as a team to get here. It’s a great day for us, we got a great win and I’ve got to thank my team for helping me win my first WorldTour race.
“It was a pretty complicated sprint because all the teams wanted to move up their sprinters in the finale. At the end we were all up there and my team did a great job. We started to move left and right and people touched shoulders inside the final kilometre but I had great legs and that helped me win today.”
A contender for Milan-San Remo
Gaviria explained that he only spent four days training on the track before the World Championships in London and he has switched back to road racing in the same time. His ability on the climbs and difficult finishes mean he could also be a contender on Saturday’s stage to Foligno and on Monday’s rising finish in Cepagatti. With Marcel Kittel also confirmed as not riding Milan-San Remo, Gaviria’s victory has no doubt secured him the role of Etixx-QuickStep’s designated sprinter for Milan-San Remo.
Zdenek Stybar revealed he is sharing a room with Gaviria here at Tirreno-Adriatico. Stybar emerged as a world-class cyclo-cross rider before becoming a Classics contender on the road. He predicts Gaviria will also go on to have a great road racing career.
“He only speaks Spanish and he’s very quiet but I think he’ll win a lot of races,” Stybar said with admiration of his roommate. “He came here from the track world championships where he won the Omnium. It must be very hard to make the transfer from those hard races and do such a sprint like he did today. I think that shows he’s extremely fast and extremely talented.
“I think he can make a surprise (at Milan-San Remo). It’s a very long race but not the hardest race. Fernando goes well on the climbs so we’ll see. He can bring us some surprises.”
Gaviria was not afraid to confirm that he will have a place in the Etixx-QuickStep team but played down his chances of actually winning an eventual sprint on the Via Roma.
“I think l’ll ride Milan-San Remo but I don’t know what I can do,” he said. “I think I’m the team’s sprinter for Milan-San Remo but it’s not only a race for sprinters, it’s a race for strong riders. I hope to have the legs for 300km. For now my goal is to finish it.”
Surprisingly, Gaviria dreams about riding and winning another spring Classic: Paris-Roubaix, even if it may not be perfectly suited to his lightweight physique. However, his ambitions for the ‘Hell of the North’ have a simple logic.
“I’ve only ever seen Paris-Roubaix on TV, it’s an exciting and a hard race. I like it because it finishes in a velodrome…”
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