Gaviria opens account for UAE-Team Emirates at Vuelta a San Juan

Colombian wins opening stage in chaotic sprint and intense heat.

Fernando Gaviria claimed his first win in his new team jersey in a chaotic bunch sprint in stage one of Vuelta a San Juan, Sunday. Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) lost teammate Peter Sagan’s wheel in the closing kilometer and was unable to outkick Matteo Malucelli (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), who took second.

“I’m super happy when I win, above all because I have changed teams and I was looking for a confirmation,” said Gaviria, referring to his move from Quick-Step at the end of 2018.

“We prepared very well in the winter and in the last days here in San Juan before the race,” the winner continued. “In the sprint, I was very relaxed because knew that I could win.”

The opening stage of the race in west Argentina was largely flat, with only two category three climbs in the 159km parcours before a flat finish into Pocito.

With temperatures hitting over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, breakaways were allowed to form, and an eight-man group formed a significant advantage in the opening hour of the race. However, they were dragged back with 70km remaining.

The pace was slow in the second half of the race until several riders jumped out of the peloton with 40km to go. UAE-Team Emirates and Deceuninck-Quick-Step controlled the bunch on behalf of their sprinters Gaviria and Alvaro Hodeg, and the race came back together with 4km remaining.

Androni Giacattoli-Sidermec were particularly active in the closing kilometers, however, were swamped as the finish line approached as the sprint trains fought for position.

Sagan attempted to lead out Bennett, but the Irishman was boxed in and unable to follow. Having fought his way through a mass of riders, he lacked the kick to match Gaviria’s well-timed surge for the line, who had been brought through the traffic by his new teammates. Malucelli took second, while Bennett finished third.

“We reached the final stretch in the front but it was very difficult for me to stay on Peter [Sagan]’s wheel as many sprinters thought he was going to contest the stage win,” said Bennett.

Stage two, Monday, is set on a 160km hilly route, with the finish line falling only 3km after the final climb.