The 22-year-old Colombian won three stages so far in the Giro. Such an explosive debut has not been seen in six years, when Sagan – now a double world champion and riding for Bora-Hansgrohe – won three stages in the 2011 Vuelta a España.
“No, I couldn’t imagine such a debut,” Gaviria said. “It would be a lie if I said otherwise. In this first Grand Tour, one can imagine, OK, one stage, maybe one stage by luck, but three wins is something important.”
Gaviria won his first stage before the Giro left Sardinia. He took another in Sicily. On Thursday, he won in Emilia Romagna.
“The first time when he sprinted, he sprinted with a bunch of sprinters, and the team rode a fantastic race and did a great job,” said Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), third on stage 12.
“The next day, I hit the wind early and he came off the wheel at the right time and then today, they are doing a great job again.
“He’s shown experience beyond his years again. He’s so young. He’s only going to get stronger as well. He’s a superstar of the future.”
One of the best Grand Tour sprinters, if not the best, Mark Cavendish made a quiet debut in the 2007 Tour de France before pulling back the throttle on his rivals and riding clear in the following years.
Marcel Kittel, André Greipel or John Degenkolb were unable to enjoy the success that Gaviria has in the Giro. Mario Cipollini and Alessandro Petacchi could not either.
Thinking back to big debuts, Belgian Freddy Maertens comes to mind. He won eight times in the 1976 Tour.
“This is Fernando’s first Grand Tour? Geez! Yeah, I’m impressed,” Bora-Hansgrohe sports director Jens Zemke said.
“Everyone knows that he’s one of the fastest and it’s always the new generation that brings such a star.
“It also shows that if you can win one stage in a grand tour then you can win two, three or four. He is now the man to beat. He’s 22, but Caleb Ewan is similar.”
Ewan, at 21-years-old, rode the 2015 Vuelta a España. That year, in the only big kick he contested, he won. But even Ewan was unable to pull off three victories.
“They are the future of sprinting,” Orica-Scott sports director Matt White said of his rider Ewan and Gaviria. “A couple of others are in their twilight years, and I dare say we are going to see a big battle between those two over the next decade.”
“[The older riders] had their time, everyone does, but it’s a very competitive sprint world at the moment and Caleb and Gaviria are certainly the up and comers in the sprinting world.
“Gaviria is a canny bike rider, you don’t win omnium championships unless you know how to handle your bike.”