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Confirming interest in the rider who twice beat Mark Cavendish in the Tour de San Luis last month, Fernando Gaviria, Etixx-QuickStep boss Patrick Lefevere has said that he made a miscalculation in not moving sooner.
“A year ago I got a tip and since then I started to keep an eye on these guys,” said Lefevere told Het Laatste Nieuws, referring to Gaviria and also to Rodrigo Contreras, the climber who won the best young rider in San Luis.
“Their results as young riders are impressive. Therefore it is worth the effort to keep following them. Kwiatkowski and Sagan have proven that top juniors can also be top riders in the pro ranks.”
However, as a result of both riders’ performances last month, the Colombians are on the radar of a lot more teams, complicating things for Etixx-QuickStep.
“It appears that a mistake was made,” he acknowledges. “Those two did so well in San Luis that everyone has now seen that they are top talents. Suddenly, they also each have a manager or five. To sign them is going to cost me a lot more than it would have a month ago.”
Gaviria beat Cavendish on stages one and three, the 20 year old proving far too quick when he jumped early. Cavendish was frustrated to lose out but managed to get revenge on the final stage, anticipating the same acceleration and managing to pip his rival at the line.
Since then he took the opening stage of the Dubai Tour and placed second on stage two, showing that he should be on course for a strong year. It’s important for him to perform strongly after crashing out on stage one of last year’s Tour and suffering a shoulder fracture.
The big question is whether or not Cavendish and Gaviria could co-exist on the same team. The latter’s contract is due to finish at the end of this year but Lefevere is thought to be interested in keeping him. Cavendish also wants to stay on board, describing the team as a family.
Still, how could two ambitious sprinters work side by side?
According to Lefevere, this shouldn’t be an issue.
“We have 270 race days per year. Mark rides 90,” he said. “There is enough left for a second sprinter. I am also a long time looking for a second sprinter. Andrew Fenn and Gert Steegmans have not succeeded in recent years.”
There is also the possibility that having another strong sprinter on the team would motivate Cavendish to raise his game and to ensure that he continues in the number one slot.
However it’s too soon to talk about what will be, rather than what might happen. Lefevere confirms that an offer is not a certainty for either rider.
“They will be fully vetted,” he said, confirming that he will meet with them later this month. “They will do physical testing and have a personal conversation with me. No one will be signed before that happens.”
If things work out, though, he said he hopes Gaviria will prove to be Cavendish’s successor.
Given that the latter is not yet 30 years of age, the Briton will be determined any such passing of the torch would happen later rather than sooner.