It’s hard to believe that Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria is only 25 years old. After all, since turning professional in 2016, Gaviria has more than made his mark on the World Tour, in just four years.
First, there was his incredible string of five stage wins in the 2017 Giro d’Italia, a feat that also won him the purple jersey — the winner of the points classification. And then, there was his memorable start to the 2018 Tour de France, where he won the opening stage and captured the yellow jersey on his first day ever, in the race. Gaviria has also dealt with setbacks and frustrations. And, as he enters his fifth season as a professional, it is clear that he still possesses an abundance of ambition.
Gaviria first garnered attention in 2015 when, as a member of the Colombian national team, he dusted experienced sprinters like Mark Cavendish, in Argentina’s Vuelta San Luis. It was clear that his years of racing on the track gave him speed to burn. But it became quickly evident that Gaviria dreamed of winning other races, and after turning professional with the Etixx-Quick-Step team, he also set his sights on some of the world’s greatest classics. He came painfully close in his 2016 Milan-San Remo debut, but a crash entering the final turn destroyed his chances. And, while he still dreams of riding Paris-Roubaix, he has still yet to start.
“Last year I tried,” he told VeloNews at the Vuelta Ciclista San Juan. “But I woke up with a temperature of 40 degrees (104F) in the morning, and couldn’t start. That was disappointing for me, but this year I hope to be there, to see the cobblestones, and try to arrive there on the track.”
In some ways, Gaviria’s Roubaix experience in 2019 summed up his season, one that met with as much frustration as success.
“Last year, at no point in the season did I feel in top condition,” Gaviria said.
And while he still managed to grab six victories, for a rider of Gaviria’s caliber, anything under double-digits must be considered sub-par.
“My performance was regular, but I never felt I was in my top condition,” he continued. “We did a lot of races in the first part of the season, but [then], I had the problem with my knee. But that is in the past, we can do nothing for the past.”
Judging from his recent performance in San Juan, where he won three stages, Gaviria appears to be back on track. Speaking of his sprinting, he says that the most immediate difference between this year and last, is that his friend and key leadout sprinter Maximiliano Richeze has now joined the UAE-Team Emirates squad.
The two met while at Etixx-Quick Step, and Gaviria is the first to say that they are almost brothers. The 36-year-old Argentinian, Richeze, is a guiding force in the Colombian’s career, as they not only race and train together, but also live in the same apartment complex in Monaco.
Simone Pedrazzini, a director at UAE-Team Emirates, said the team has big hopes for Gaviria in 2020.
“Last year was a bit complicated for Fernando,” Pedrazzini said. “Joining a new team always takes time, and then he had his knee problems. But we have spent a lot of time working on the details, getting the sprint train right, etc. I think he is in a good place now and feels at home with us.”
Pedrazzini started working with Gaviria in 2019. He watched Gaviria win big races early, only to be slowed throughout the season by injuries. Pedrazzini believes a healthy Gaviria can accomplish anything he wants to in the sport’s biggest sprints.
“He got off to good start last year but then things got complicated. Now he is coming off of a good stretch,” Pedrazzini said. “He has been training well without any health issues, and he is hungrier than ever. You know what is really impressive, is that he is only 25 years old. I mean, when you look at the success Fernando has already had, you would think he is older. But he is still very young, and still can progress a lot. He is really impressive. When he is on, he is capable of winning with such facility. It is really impressive to see. When he is on, anything is possible.”
Well, winning the Tour de France may not be possible, but Gaviria has an abundance of goals. Paris-Roubaix, and the UCI world championships are the races he dreams of winning the most. And he hopes to have his first shot at Roubaix this year, as it is scheduled to be the final race of his classics campaign, which includes Milano-Sanremo, Gent-Wevelgem, and the Tour of Flanders.
And then, once the classics are behind him, all eyes will be set on the Tour de France, where he hopes to do even better than his 2018 debut. Gaviria is not one to overthink or over analyze his preparation. He admits that he has yet to look at the Tour de France route, and when asked about his specific goals he says simply, “To win…to win lots of stages.”