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Fernando Gaviria has brushed off an in-race incident that left rival Mark Cavendish apparently fuming after he finished sixth to the Colombian, who ended the Tour of Oman on Tuesday the same way he started – winning.
Gaviria (UAE Emirates) celebrated his first victory of the season on stage 1 and took line-honors on stage 6, leaving his teammate Max Richeze and Cavendish to remonstrate behind him.
Runner-up Kaden Groves (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Gaviria had already opened their sprints when Cavendish appeared to try to come around Richeze and into a gap on his right against the barrier, but got boxed in by the Argentine and had to slow.
Also read: Gaviria kicks to final stage victory
The Briton slammed his handlebars and looked to say something to Richeze, who raised his arm in response as if to say, ‘What?’ as the pair crossed the finish line.
Some pundits were quick to react on social media and suggested Richeze deviated from his line. The race jury after viewing helicopter images of the sprint disqualified him.
“We take the decision because Richeze, he’s coming to the right-hand side and he blocked Cavendish off,” jury chief Jempi Jooren told Wielerflits.
“We think Cavendish probably can win the race, but especially he lost the green jersey, so it was not a very big act of violence but it’s a very big act on sportive reasons.”
Jooren said he did not believe Richeze’s move was purposeful, but it was enough for disqualification.
Gaviria, speaking following the podium ceremony, defended his lead-out man.
The 27-year-old compared the altercation to when he finished fourth to Cavendish on stage 2 after an Arkéa-Samsic rider, he said, closed him to the barrier.
“I don’t speak with Mark because it’s like that,” Gaviria said at the finish.
“Max started to the right side from the guy from BikeExchange and then if you won’t pass you need to move, and then it’s sometimes the wrong way.
“The day Mark won, the guy from Arkéa passed me and then closed me to the barriers and nothing happened. That is cycling. There’s no fight every day.
“Max tried to go in front, then he doesn’t really look behind and doesn’t go really to the barrier when Mark says something. When Mark said something, I saw the video, Max did go a little bit to the left. He’s not a bad guy, Max. It’s not new in cycling. Sometimes in the sprint you take the wrong way and then you need to brake.”
Gaviria hits Oman hot
The two wins in Oman for Gaviria signaled a return to form after a lean couple of years.
He was one of the first riders to test positive to COVID-19 at the onset of the pandemic and the beginning of the 2020 season. He missed five months of racing following the UAE Tour and returned, only to later test positive again at the postponed Giro d’Italia.
“He lost a little bit of his confidence, and also the team. Even if you say, ‘No, we’re doing the job 100 percent,’ it’s not true,” UAE Emirates sports director Fabio Baldato said.
“When you feel your leader is not 100 percent, all the other piece of the train, all the other piece of the team, they’re not giving 100 percent, or give everything.
“They should do. It’s something that comes up on a team when you have a strong leader, a strong sprinter, everyone gives 110 percent, everyone does a little bit more and at the end, you have the chemistry to go for the win.”
Gaviria in Oman clearly felt like the team was behind him and was openly appreciative of that.
His win on Tuesday ahead of Groves and Amaury Capiot (Arkea-Samsic) also saw him snatch the green leader’s jersey. Cavendish had been leading the points classification but lost his lead before the last stage when the jury decided to penalize him for pushing off race vehicles during stage five to Green Mountain, in which he crashed.
“I feel really good,” said Gaviria with the green jersey tied around his shoulders because it was too hot for him to wear.
“I’m really happy because a long time ago I don’t feel these legs and the confidence about the team, and then always we have a scare take the decision, go in front, but not anymore because now we feel the victory, we know what to do. It’s just trying to continue like that.”
The sixth stage featured a punchy climb with 35km remaining, which took the sting out of some but Gaviria was able to follow.
“We passed the climb really good in the front and then it’s much easy to control the race,” he said. “In the last part only just follow. I trust my team, I just follow my teammates. The team do the best job for the final. Just in the last part we wait a lot, and we need to start the sprint, Max and me, at the same time, but this was okay when you win.”