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Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia: Fernando Gaviria sprints to fifth without a saddle

Gaviria suffers mechanical in final kilometer but hangs on for fifth as Dylan Groenewegen exits race early.

You don’t need a saddle to sprint, right?

Fernando Gaviria proved that to be true at the Giro d’Italia on Friday, punching into fifth despite losing his saddle in the final kilometer.

“It was one of the longest kilometers of my life! Unfortunately I had a mechanical at the wrong time but I managed to make the best of it for a good sprint,” Gaviria said after the stage. “I had to go from a long way out.”

Also read: Nizzolo finally ticks off his Giro win

Gaviria was the first to follow Giacomo Nizzolo’s stage-winning kick to catch and pass Edoardo Affini in the final of Friday’s 13th stage, forced into stomping on the pedals and wrestling his bars after his saddle fell off his seatpost. The Colombian was rounded at the last to take his fourth top-6 in this year’s Giro.

After twice suffering with COVID in 2020, Gaviria rode last year’s mid-autumn Giro and repeatedly missed the mark in the fast finishes, coming away with just a seventh and eighth place finish.

The 26-year-old has come considerably closer in the past two weeks and won’t give up trying just yet – saddle or no saddle.

“I’m already thinking about the next sprint and hungry for a win at this Giro,” he said Friday.

Gaviria’s next opportunity to face-off against the likes of Nizzolo, Peter Sagan, and Elia Viviani will come Sunday. And his task may have been made a little easier after Team Jumbo-Visma confirmed Friday that both Dylan Groenewegen and David Dekker would be leaving the race ahead of Saturday’s stage to the Zoncolan.

“The pipe is quite empty with both guys,” said Jumbo-Visma sport director Arthur van Dongen. “David is a neo-pro who has never raced for thirteen days in a row and Dylan had not raced for quite some time before the Giro.”

Groenewegen and Dekker join Caleb Ewan and Tim Merlier as sprinters to leave the Giro early, handing Gaviria and Co. extra elbow room in the two final fast finishes of the race on stage 15 and stage 18.

Also read: Ewan on Giro early exit: ‘I’m more disappointed than anyone’

The Giro was Groenewegen’s first race since being handed a nine-month suspension from competition, a punishment for his involvement in the terrible crash at last year’s Tour of Poland. Jumbo-Visma team suggested “less is more” as the Dutchman returns to top condition.

“As a team we are really satisfied with how they have performed in recent days, but to continue now would be too much for them,” van Dongen said. “Those guys need to get some rest and then look forward to the upcoming races.”

Groenewegen made an impressive comeback from his suspension in the past two weeks, punching into the top-10 four times. He is next slated to race at Rund um Köln next month.

“My Giro is over after today, I enjoyed the race feeling,” Groenewegen wrote on Twitter on Friday. “The feeling I need to win is back and I will prepare for the next goals, I also want to thank my team who went for it every sprint.”