Fernando Gaviria was helped to victory in the UAE by “one of the best sprinters in the world,” Alexander Kristoff.
The Colombian paid tribute to his old rival after stage two of the UAE Tour, where he bested a field full of powerhouses including his former team-mate Elia Viviani and Caleb Ewan.
Gaviria moved from Deceuninck – Quick-Step to UAE Team Emirates, where he has knocked Kristoff into second choice for the sprints.
The 24-year-old’s victory in Abu Dhabi was his first in a WorldTour event this year, adding to his tally after he won two stages of the Vuelta a San Juan last month.
Speaking after the stage, Gaviria said: “Kristoff did a really good job. He’s an amazing rider, because he’s also one of the best sprinters in the world and for today in the lead-out he was the best.
“I’m really happy for all the team and we’re happy for the victory in Abu Dhabi.”
Gaviria opened his sprint early on stage two, a day that was characterised by crosswinds causing chaos in the peloton, but was able to beat Viviani (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) into second place.
Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) finished third.
With a field of world-class sprinters racing in the UAE, Gaviria reflected on his postion in the hierarchy: “I am one of the best sprinters in the world, because I got good results even before today.
“But it’s hard to make a list of who is the best and who is the second best because within two weeks it can change completely.
“I’m not looking at the future, I’m looking at the moment. I want to win now.
“I’ve trained a lot for winning and I hope to win a lot this year. “
On Viviani, he added: ”It’s not just a good victory because I beat Elia Viviani.
“Winning is always special, whoever we win against.
“Elia is a top rider. We aren’t team-mates anymore but now we sprint against each other.”
Kristoff is often strong in the early part of the season, winning stages of the Tour of Oman and the Abu Dhabi Tour last season.
He went on to win the prestigious final sprint stage of the Tour de France on the Champs-Élysées in 2018.
But this year the 31-year-old will be backing the younger Gaviria on the biggest stages, including the Tour where both men are due to race.