Fernando Gaviria wheeled to a halt beyond the finish line in Chartres on stage 7 of the Tour de France and threw himself down on the grass verge. He sat for a good couple of minutes with his head buried in his chest, panting deeply, but almost as much through frustration as exhaustion. When he finally picked himself up he ignored the circling television cameras and pretty much everyone else, pausing briefly at the Quick-Step Floors bus before riding off towards the team’s hotel.
As one South American journalist put it, he had a cara de culo – a face like a slapped arse, to use the nearest English equivalent.
With two victories already under his belt, Gaviria was the favourite again for the bunch sprint in Chartres, but found that things wouldn't go quite as smoothly as they had up to that point in his Tour de France debut.
While a late crash took him out of the running on stage 2, this time he was beaten à la pédale by Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo). The frustration was writ large on Gaviria’s face, and while he didn’t stop to share his thoughts, there was a general acceptance of the result in the Quick-Step camp.
"If you lose with five centimetres, you can say 10 times, ‘I should have won’, but if you lose by three bike lengths, there’s no discussion," said team manager Patrick Lefevere.
Asked whether Gaviria or Quick-Step could have done anything differently, Lefevere hit back: “Did you see a mistake? No, me neither. You have to accept this. He [Groenewegen] was too fast.”
Once again it was Gaviria’s team who led out the sprint, Max Richeze taking him up the right-hand side of the road on the false flat final few hundred metres. Either due to Richeze tiring, or to Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) preparing to open up on the left, or to his own reluctance to wait, Gaviria started his effort with 240 metres still to run.
He drove away from Kristoff and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), but Groenewegen emerged from the European champion's slipstream and came round him on the outside line of the right-hand bend, moving straight in front of Gaviria as he celebrated a convincing win.
"It was a difficult sprint to read," Richeze told reporters in Chartres. “We preferred to take it on from the front, knowing that on a finish like that it's much easier to come from behind, but that then you run the risk of getting boxed in.
"Sometimes Fernando prefers to go from long range. I was a bit far back and then found my way up to a teammate, so I had to take the foot off the gas a bit and then open it up again, and that was tough.
"We did the best we could, but that's how sprinting is. You don't always win. We tried to do our sprint, as always, and we tried to take it on from the front, as always, but there are so many good sprinters in this bunch, and I think today we came up against a stronger rival."
Gaviria's debut Tour, which has seen him become only the second Colombian to don the yellow jersey, can already be qualified as a success, but despite his youth, he is hungry for as much as he can get his hands on.
Before the race heads into the mountains on Monday, he'll have another chance to make it a treble on Saturday’s stage to Amiens. After once again picking up points at the intermediate sprint, he closed to the gap to Peter Sagan in the green jersey standings to 31 points.
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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