Fernando Gaviria steals the show in Tirreno-Adriatico
Our neo-pro scored the biggest win of his road career so far, less than a week after conquering the Omnium world title.
On a day which started out with Zdenek Stybar in the blue jersey and Bob Jungels in the white one, five riders decided to make their presence felt in stage 3 (Castelnuovo Val di Cecina – Montalto di Castro, 176 km) and go in the escape: Simone Andreeta (Bardiani), Giorgio Cecchinel (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), José Gonçalves (Caja Rural), Adrian Honkisz (CCC Sprandi Polkowice) and Davide Villella (Cannondale). At one point, they built a 4:35 gap, but it was kept under control by Etixx – Quick-Step and Orica-GreenEdge, who had the interest to see this stage come down to a bunch sprint.
The escapees left it all on the road, hoping to go big at the end of the day, but the strong chase behind gave them no other choice than to surrender with two kilometers to go, just as the road began to rise. Tinkoff and Lampre-Merida led the way inside the final 500 meters, but it was Fernando Gaviria the one to hit the front, his excellent positioning and fantastic burst of speed leaving all his rivals incapable of matching his fierce acceleration, as he won with a bike length and scored his first ever World Tour victory. The 21-year-old Colombian was followed on the podium by Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) and Elia Viviani (Team Sky).
Already victorious this season in stages of the Tour de San Luis and Tour La Provence (where he also took home the points jersey), Fernando Gaviria confirmed in Montalto di Castro his huge talent, which was showcased since last year, and nailed the team's 18th victory of 2016, which he got just six days after celebrating his second career victory in the Omnium event, at the Track World Championships in London.
I am very happy for taking a win in my first World Tour race and for repaying the team's confidence. I worked hard to get here and now I'm enjoying this incredible day.
"I rode pressure-free, my goal was to take it day by day and see how my legs will respond. It has been an excellent week so far for the team. I am in good shape and I have to thank for that to our trainer, Koen Pelgrim, who was very close to me in the past months", said Fernando at the arrival, before continuing with an analysis of the finale: "The last kilometer wasn't as tough as we thought, that's why many sprinters made it over that small climb. I had a very strong team, who helped me a lot before I jumped into Sagan's wheel and launched my sprint. I want to thank the entire team for their work, because I got to experience this special feeling, of notching my maiden World Tour victory. Of course, winning the Omnium world title was also very emotional, but these are two victories which can't be compared."
Seeing his current form and knowing that he's on the start list for this year's Milan-Sanremo, many began to speculate on the fact that he could have a major role in "La Primavera", which is scheduled on March 19th, but Fernando immediately downplayed this expectations ahead of his first Monument: "To be quite frankly, I can't wait to race Milan-Sanremo, but I'm not thinking of getting the victory there. Let's not forget that I've never rode a 300-km long race. For me, it will be a great moment even to be at the start, and all I want is to enjoy this Classic, to see how my body will react and gain valuable experience."
At the end of a stage which brought huge satisfaction to Etixx – Quick-Step, Zdenek Stybar kept his blue jersey, which he got to don following Thursday's success. He too, just as everybody else, was impressed by Fernando's display in stage 3: "What I know for sure is that Fernando is very talented and extremely fast. Think about it: he returned this week from the Track World Championships, where he won the Omnium gold medal for the second year in a row, and he still was in great shape, helping the team in the TTT and now doing this amazing sprint. In Tirreno he is my roommate and I got to know him better: Fernando is a great guy and I'm sure he'll win many races. He's still very young and we have seen just a glimpse of what he can really do."
Stage 4 of "The Race of the Two Seas" (Montalto di Castro – Foligno, 216 kilometers) will take place on Saturday and will be the longest one at this year's edition, having an undulating course, with four categorized climbs; the last one will come inside the final 20 kilometers, when the peloton will already be on a circuit. In Foligno, the arrival city, Tirreno-Adriatico will return after a 13-year hiatus.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele