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Fernando Gaviria: ‘More than half of that victory is for Max’

Colombian sprinter credits team, leadout man with perfect setup in Tour of Oman opener.

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Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) gave full credit to his team after opening his season account at the Tour of Oman on Thursday, clearly happy to reunite with lead-out man Max Richeze, to whom he dedicated more than half his victory.

Gaviria started his 2022 campaign at the Saudi Tour earlier this month but failed to chalk a win on the board there, following a lean couple of seasons in which he fought bouts of COVID-19.

Also read: Tour of Oman – Fernando Gaviria outkicks Mark Cavendish in opening stage sprint

The Colombian appeared to crest the finish line with ease on Thursday, lifting his arms aloft as he finished clear ahead of a frustrated Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), who was down one teammate, and Kaden Groves (Team BikeExchange-Jayco).

“We start with the motivation of trying to win a stage and today my team did a really good job. All the team worked for me all the time in the stage and I’m really happy to take this victory here,” he said.

Gaviria was both appreciative of and buoyed by the teamwork as he waited by the podium to be presented as the stage winner and receive the first leader’s and points jersey of the race, talking about Richeze’s expert direction.

“The last [kilometer] is like always, Maximiliano had the control of all the team and then he say when we go, when we need to stay a little bit cover,” Gaviria said, admitting his in-form teammate pushed him to dig deeper.

“When he started the lead-out I feel full pain in the legs, but I say now is my time and I need to do the maximum as possible, and here can take a really good victory.

“In the end, everybody gave me something for the sprint and I’m really happy. I’m really appreciative of that from my team.”

Richeze has postponed retirement to fill a spot on the UAE roster and support Gaviria, who describes the Argentine as a “big brother.” The pair also previously worked together at Quick-Step.

The renewed partnership will surely be a boost in morale for Gaviria and contribute to momentum, not just in Oman. The 38-year-old Richeze is set to call time on his career at the Giro d’Italia, which Gaviria is targeting this season.

“In the last part, Max took the control of the lead-out, had completely 100 percent control for every moment, every pedal. [He didn’t] lose some meters and then in the last part, pushed full-gas and really made the difference for the victory today. More than half of that victory is for Max,” Gaviria said.