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Gaviria gels with UAE Team Emirates, sets Sanremo as key goal

After leaving Belgian super-team Quick-Step a year early, Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria has quickly assimilated to the UAE team.

SAN JUAN, Argentina (VN) — Fernando Gaviria feels at home now in UAE Team Emirates after a complicated transfer from Quick-Step this winter.

In his new colors, Gaviria already sprinted to two stage wins in Argentina’s Vuelta a San Juan this week.

“It wasn’t an easy transfer for sure, Quick-Step is a good team,” said Gaviria, who made a deal to leave the team one year early.

“We found a deal. Everyone was happy. Quick-Step remains a very good, a strong team. I loved the UAE project, to become the center of the project for the next years as it grows.”

Gaviria joined Quick-Step, this year from Deceuninck-Quick Step. He joined the Belgian super-team after a break-out performance in the 2015 Tour de San Luis, the precursor to Vuelta a San Juan. He beat Mark Cavendish in two sprints, winning stages 1 and 3.

With Quick-Step, he went to the Giro d’Italia in 2017 and won four stages. At the 2018 Tour de France, he won two stages and wore the yellow jersey.

The team boss Patrick Lefevere, however, had to cut some costs and made a deal to let Gaviria transfer to UAE. This year, Lefevere is banking on sprinters Elia Viviani and up-and-comer Alvaro Hodeg.

“It’s not easy to change teams after three years in Quick-Step. But we trained well in December in Colombia, I felt better and better, more relaxed. It’s hard, new guys in the team, but after the first day and the first win, everything gels,” explained Gaviria.

“This year, I’m more relaxed, easier with the media. I can enjoy things easier. Some years, before, it was difficult. I had a really big change. No one was asking anything about me and then right away, questions all the time. It’s easier now.”

Gaviria is riding off the wheels of Simone Consonni and Roberto Ferrari this week in Argentina’s western province of San Juan. Later in the year, he might have the service of Alexander Kristoff. The Norwegian’s palmares includes three stage wins in the Tour de France, Milano-Sanremo, and the Tour of Flanders. He won the final stage of the 2018 Tour on the Champs-Elysees, but in general, he has not been sprinting to as many wins in recent years.

“I don’t know, in some races I go with the climbers. You can’t take the complete team for the train, maybe we will have Kristoff, Fabio Aru, Daniel Martin in the Tour de France. It’s different,” continued Gaviria.

“Kristoff’s role? If he wants to sprint, we are going to go for the best rider. If I don’t have good legs, I’ll ride for him. And the other way around for me. We are not children, but we are professionals.”

Gaviria’s goal is to be ready for the classics, from Milano-Sanremo to Paris-Roubaix. If all goes to plan, he will debut in the cobbled classics this season. Last year, a broken finger caused him to miss the big classics.

“For sure Sanremo, it’s the first classic, I’ll try to win. I don’t ride in Sanremo just [for fun], I train to win from now until that day, training to have my best condition for the day,” Gaviria said.

“Last year Vincenzo Nibali won, but it’s normally for the sprinters. Normally it arrives in a sprint. You never know, if I can follow, I will [go with an attack]. If I can’t, I try to just follow the group and wait for the sprint.

“We will see what will happen. I will say I will go for a win, but you don’t know. In Sanremo, I went well in my first try, I survived 300 kilometers and with 300 meters to go, I crashed. It’s like that.”