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BEIHAI, China (VN) — Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) is building his 2018 season around being the first Colombian to conquer the cobbled classics and winning his first Tour de France stage.
The 23-year-old, who sprinted to victory in the first stage of the Tour of Guangxi in South China Thursday, is one of the top riders of his generation. This season, he won four Giro d’Italia stages in his grand tour debut.
“We already have a clear vision of the objectives and the calendar for 2018,” Gaviria said. “We’ll prepare for the classics in Colombia and Argentina [racing the Vuelta a San Juan].
“We’ll try to go to Europe in the best possible shape for the classics. I’m speaking of the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. After which, we’ll start thinking of the Tour.”
No Colombian has ever been able to dominate the cobbled classics. The country is most known for its tiny climbers nicknamed escarabajos.
Gaviria broke through in 2015 by beating top sprint star Mark Cavendish twice in Argentina. However, right away he underlined his dream to dominate on northern Europe’s cobbles.
Quick-Step is the perfect place for any aspiring cobbled rider, with the Belgian team guiding many cyclists to the top — including recently retired Tom Boonen. Gaviria had his first taste of the cobbles this year, racing Dwars door Vlaanderen and Gent-Wevelgem. In the spring of 2018, however, he will have a full-immersion course alongside star riders Niki Terpstra and Philippe Gilbert.
“He wanted to do Paris-Roubaix this year but his shape wasn’t where it needed to be,” Quick-Step general manager Patrick Lefevere said this summer.
“We decided it was better to send him home to Colombia so he could recover and train at altitude for the Giro. You saw the results. We don’t have the team to send a developing rider to the classics, we want to take him there ready.”
The classics campaign would form part of the two-pronged 2018 approach with the 2018 Tour de France. Gaviria already proved himself in his grand tour debut in the spring, dominating the sprints, winning four stages, and surviving through the mountains to win the Giro’s points jersey.
The Quick-Step team is completely backing Gaviria for the sprints in 2018, with star sprinter Marcel Kittel leaving for Katusha. Like the classics, the team is well-oiled having helped Kittel and, before that, Mark Cavendish in the Tour sprints.
“He’s young and fast, and I think he can take on Peter Sagan,” Lefevere added. “We need somebody to come up and challenge him because when Peter’s going at full-speed, nothing can be done and it becomes boring. The four stages in the Giro was huge for him. He’s a cannibal.”
If Gaviria could pull it off, he would help push cycling in Colombia to new levels. Already, it is enjoying a new generation of success with Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale-Drapac) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
“First of all, it’s Nairo who’s the most popular,” Gaviria said this year. “I don’t want the fame.”
Gaviria is closing out the 2017 season in the Tour of Guangxi. On Thursday, along the Beibu Gulf in Beihai, he sprinted ahead of the WorldTour peloton.
“The win looked easy only on television. Instead, it was a hard race: short, fast and at the end, one of the craziest sprints. It’s one of the fastest sprints I’ve ever done,” he said.
“I’m delighted to take a win in the last race of the year, which is the Tour of Guangxi.”