The Etixx-Quick Step rider impressed with his winning display on stage four of the Tour of Britain
Head down, tucked position, impressive turn of speed: you could have easily thought that it was Mark Cavendish, and not Fernando Gaviria who claimed Wednesday’s Tour of Britain stage victory in Blyth.
“He looks like Cav, that’s why he has to wear different shoes,” said Etixx-Quick Step DS Brian Holm. “I recognised him on his fluo-yellow shoes, he was easy to see.”
The 21-year-old Colombian, who already has the label of “the man who beat Cavendish twice at the start of 2015” seemingly attached to his name, got the better of André Greipel et al in the former ship-building town by some margin.
And if his sprinting style made Gaviria look like the Manxman, his post-race press conference contained similar hallmarks. He even wore Nike trainers to it, the same American company who are one of Cavendish’s personal sponsors.
“This is a victory for team,” Gaviria started. “Mark put me in a very good position, and when I went, I just went.”
Arguably, this win was more impressive than the two he claimed in January’s Tour de San Luis in Argentina (both at Cavendish’s expense), which put him on many teams’ radar.
The Tour of Britain represents his biggest test to date, having joined Etixx in August as a stagiare as a pre-cursor to a two-year deal that commences next year.
“Cav agreed before the race that we’d go with him for a few stages, and also give Gaviria one or two to [lead the team] to give him a chance to deal with the pressure,” added Holm.
“He rode 150 kilometres on the front yesterday – most riders would have sore legs today, but he’s so unbelievably strong.”
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Hailing from La Ceja, a town of around 45,000 inhabitants to Colombia’s north west, Gaviria was initially a speed skater before he switched to cycling aged 13.
At present, his English is non-existent. “We’ve had [former British pro] Tim Harris translating our meetings in the mornings,” said Holm. “If you want an interview with him, you do it in Spanish or get Tim to help.”
Given his roots, that he’s a competent climber should be of little surprise. Gaviria doesn’t think that being a sprinter, as opposed to a stick-thin mountain specialist, will affect his reputation back home.
“I don’t think they’ll be surprised, they like a winner’s mentality,” Gaviria added, exuding a Cavendish-like confidence.
Another similarity with his team-mate is his prowess on the track: a double junior world champion on the boards in 2012, he won the omnium – the Manxman’s potential Olympic event in 2016 – at February’s World Championships in Paris.
Gaviria said on Wednesday that he “hasn’t thought about the Olympics yet”, likely music to his team boss Patrick Lefevere’s ears, given his disdain for the Games.
However, it’s not just the Colombian’s physical strength that has impressed Holm: technically, he appears to tick the right boxes. It’s said that Paris-Roubaix is the race he wants to win the most.
“I get a good feeling from him; after he punctured [on stage three], he grabbed a bottle,” said Holm of the classic sticky bottle method. “Some riders never learn that.
“You see him coming back between the cars, he’s a natural. He never stressed.”
Gaviria’s Tour of Britain triumph was his second in Etixx colours: he won a stage of last month’s Czech Cycling Tour on only his third racing day for the team.
“In the Czech race he was good: when he won the sprint, he was like Cav eight years ago,” added Holm. “He’s also got a twist of Sagan inside him.
“For the moment he looks like he’ll have a quite alright career.”