FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — The Fernando Gaviria/Quick-Step Floors relationship “had run its course,” says the star Colombian sprinter.
Gaviria wore the yellow jersey and won two stages in the Tour de France this summer. He and the Belgian super team, however, broke their contract a year early so he could lead UAE Team Emirates in the sprints in 2019.
“I think the relationship with Quick-Step had already run its course,” 24-year-old Gaviria told the EFE news agency during a gala in Colombia.
“So I was ready to look for other teams, and Team Emirates was the option.”
Gaviria began his professional career in 2016 with the Quick-Step franchise after a trainee period in 2015. He debuted in the Tour this summer after having raced the 2017 Giro d’Italia — in which he won four stages and the points competition.
He did not hesitate in the Tour, winning the opening stage and taking the yellow jersey in Fontenay-le-Comte. It highlighted a three-year run with the team that already had superstar sprinters Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, and now, Elia Viviani.
Gaviria is leaving behind “an excellent team” and it is “one of the best in the world,” he added. “I am happy with what I did in the team.
“We wanted a change, we looked for a change and we hope that the change was the right one.”
The change came at the right time for Gaviria, who wanted a new environment and clear leadership, and Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere, who needed to free up some of his budget. Lefevere is instead doubling down on Viviani, winner of four Giro stages and three Vuelta a España stages this year. Gaviria’s exit frees up around $2.2 million.
“I consider him the world’s best sprinter at the moment,” UAE sport director Joxean Fernández told VeloNews last month. “He’s at the peak of his powers, at 24, with a lot of ambition and confidence.”
Gaviria’s arrival at UAE Team Emirates signals the team has brought on a top sprinter to take over for veteran Alexander Kristoff in the big sprints and classics. Even with Kristoff still around, Gaviria will enjoy the sprint leader status without having to worry about others like he had with Viviani on Quick-Step.
Fernández added, “With Gaviria, we will have the guarantee that we are sprinting for the win, not fourth or fifth, so it’s natural we will want to build a big train around him.”
Gaviria and the team will meet next week to schedule the 2019 season. He will aim to return to the Tour, but it is unclear which classics and stage races he will undertake beforehand. Quick-Step wanted to bring him to the big classics this year, but it changed plans when Gaviria fractured a hand bone in March at Tirreno-Adriatico.
“Some of the sports directors say that I should race 10 days of the Giro to prepare the Tour, others say it would be better to go to the Tour of California to prepare for the Tour,” Gaviria continued.
“We are waiting to decide what will be the most successful path and focus for the Tour, which is our biggest goal.”