'I was watching Mark Cavendish on TV when I was younger. Now, I'm talking with him in the races. That's beautiful'

Fernando Gaviria says it's a dream come true to come up against one of his idols Mark Cavendish in races

(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) finds it "beautiful" to be racing next to sprint great Mark Cavendish after growing up watching him on television in the Tour de France.

The Colombian is expected to lead the team in the 2018 Tour for the first time after his grand tour debut in the Giro d'Italia in 2017 with four stage wins.

>>> Race organisers reveal wildcard team selections for 2018 Tour de France

"There are many [riders I look up to]," Gaviria told Cycling Weekly. "For me, though, it is Mark Cavendish. I like him a lot because he was impressive at the Tour.

"I remember when he was younger in Team Highroad, I'd watch him racing on the television. Now, I'm talking with him in the races. That's beautiful."

Cavendish in his best year at the Tour won six Tour stages in 2009. Now, he counts a total of 30 and is edging closer to Merckx's all-time record of 34 stage wins.

"I've been fortunate to have been on incredible teams that have helped me amass my 30 wins," Team Dimension Data's Cavendish said this winter. "Why it's kind of a goal now is because it's kind of reachable."

Fernando Gaviria takes victory on stage three of the Giro d'Italia (Sunada)
(Image credit: Yuzuru Sunada)

The 32-year-old from the Isle of Man should return to the Tour this summer after crashing out early in 2017 with Peter Sagan. Gaviria will be racing for his first win, but equally wishing Cavendish reaches his goal.

"Yeah, I think he can," Gaviria said of Cavendish's reaching his goal. "He's very good.

"I spoke with him immediately after the incident in this Tour [in 2017]. We trade messages every month or so. It's been rough for him afterwards."

Gaviria rocketed into the headlines thanks to beating Cavendish. While still an unknown and riding for the Colombian team, he topped his hero in the first stage of the 2015 Tour de San Luis. He did so again in the third stage.

Team Quick-Step signed him and developed racing first with Cavendish, before joining Dimension Data, and Marcel Kittel.

This year, Kittel rides for Katusha-Alpecin which will allow Gaviria to take a bigger role in the Belgian WorldTour team, which has been beefed up with the edition of Italian Elia Viviani from Team Sky.

"More responsibility? Yeah, for sure, but I want that. I want to be a captain, a good captain in the team. To work well at home and ride well on the team. A true captain for my team-mates, for the team," said Gaviria.

"Having Elia in the team won't change much because he'll be pretty much racing the programme that I had this year with the Giro. I'm going to be at the Classics and the Tour, so it's not a problem."

Gaviria first "really wants to focus" on winning Milan-San Remo and gain experience working with Niki Terpstra and Philippe Gilbert in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

Afterwards, his attention turns to the Tour. In addition to classification riders Nairo Quintana and Rigoberto Urán, Colombia will now have a sprinter to cheer.

The race starts on July 7 in Vendée with a flat sprinters' stage. Gaviria wants to arrive there and test his legs to see "what's possible" against the top rivals in the biggest race.

"No, there's no one," he said of fearing of his rivals. "If I train well, why should I be afraid of the other sprinters?"

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