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Gaviria confirms credentials ahead of Sanremo return

Timing is everything for sprinters, and Colombian sensation Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step) timed it just right Monday to take a morale-boosting victory just days ahead of a return to Milano-Sanremo.

Gaviria, 22, had the legs to out-kick world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) to win the final sprint stage at Tirreno-Adriatico, just in time to revive his chances ahead of the season’s first monument Saturday.

“The win gives me a lot of confidence for Saturday, but today was only 170km, and Sanremo is 300km,” Gaviria said after taking his fourth win in 2017. “It’s a different race, but I go to Sanremo with the same sensations as last year. I will try to win, and enjoy the experience of racing at Sanremo.”

Rewind to 2016, and Gaviria was within striking distance of sprinting for victory in his Sanremo debut, only to clip wheels, crashing in the final kilometer. Talk about bad timing.

“Last year we had some bad luck, but we will try again this year, and try to be there again in the final,” Gaviria said. “I don’t have fear [of Sanremo], but I have respect. I have confidence in my trainer to put me in the top possible shape to take on the race.”

A year wiser and more experienced (including a growing friendship with former Sanremo champ Alessandro Petacchi), Gaviria will line up Saturday with a target on his back. No one will be looking past the Colombian speedster, but with a strong, still not-confirmed Quick-Step team to back him up, including Tom Boonen (who’s never won Sanremo), Matteo Trentin, and Julian Alaphilippe, Gaviria will be the team’s man if he can make it over the Cipressa and Poggio with the favorites.

After an impressive rookie year that included victory at Paris-Tours as part of a seven-win season as well as a detour to race the omnium at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, Gaviria is facing an ambitious sophomore season that includes a run across the northern classics (he was 10th in Dwars door Vlaanderen and sixth at Gent-Wevelgem) and his grand tour debut at the Giro d’Italia. A start at the Tour de France could be in the cards as well, but first comes some unfinished business with Milano-Sanremo.

“Some say Sanremo is a lottery, but if [Eddy] Merckx won it is seven times, it’s not a lottery,” Gaviria said. “It’s a race where you have to know where to be in the right moment. It’s a chaotic race, but it’s also a race that suits me well. The legs are feeling good, so we’ll see what happens on the 18th.”

With Sagan still aiming for his first Sanremo win as well, and a host of others looking sharp, Saturday’s race should be one of the most competitive in years.

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