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Having missed out on victory at the WorldTour’s sprint showdown at the UAE Tour in February and then contracting coronavirus shortly afterward, the UAE-Team Emirates fastman blasted back to his best in Villadiego, ripping up alongside the barriers to dominate Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) and Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick-Step).
“For sure it’s one of the sweetest tasting victories this year, because of the whole hiatus and what’s happened with the virus,” Gaviria told TVE after the race. “Winning so convincingly feels even more reassuring – the powder is still there.”
Gaviria’s explosive acceleration toward the line with 100 meters to go showed that nearly five months away from racing and a bout of COVID-19 hasn’t taken the edge off the kick that has granted the 25-year-old seven grand tour wins.
To add further sugar to the mix, the Colombian ducked and dived his way toward the finish without the help of key leadout teammates having lost Sebastian Molano, Cristian Munoz and Camilo Ardila prior to the stage in a coronavirus scare.
“The victory today was more with the legs and luck,” Gaviria noted. Second-place Démare was quick to acknowledge that Gaviria’s legs are most certainly in shape.
“He is very smart and is more skillful on the bike than me,” the Frenchman told l’Equipe. “He was thrown out of the corner, he was much faster than us, there was not even a sprint! We were ruined.”
Gaviria will be facing up against Démare at this October’s Giro d’Italia while UAE-Team Emirates focuses on its GC ambitions with Tadej Pogačar and Fabio Aru at the Tour de France. The Colombian was philosophical at missing out on his second Tour de France this summer. However, having netted five stage wins in two appearances at the Giro, the race is a happy hunting ground.
“It is a difficult moment because all the riders have to divide the few races that there are,” Gaviria told MARCA. “I am happy with this calendar. I like the Giro and Italian food, so I’m happy. For the Tour, Pogačar needs men in the mountains and that is why we have made this balance that I believe is the right one.”
Gaviria will be cooling his jets Thursday as he lets the team’s GC men Aru and David de La Cruz take the reins. Burgos’ third stage sees the first of two summit finishes, with a gnarly 7.8-kilometer 9.3 percent climb to the line at Picón Blanco on tap.
“This Thursday I am on vacation,” he joked about the hilly stage approaching him.
Gaviria’s next opportunity to test the post-COVID kick comes Friday in a dragging uphill sprint finish to conclude stage 4. For now, he’ll be making the most of his well-earned vacation.