Fernando Gaviria victorious in his home country
After a textbook lead-out and a perfectly-timed sprint, the 23-year-old won the first ever stage of Colombia Oro y Paz and donned three distinctive jerseys.
Fernando Gaviria's hot streak in stage races continued Tuesday afternoon in Palmira, where the prodigious sprinter of Quick-Step Floors capitalized on the excellent work of his teammates and sprinted to his 25th career victory since joining the squad as a stagiaire, in the summer of 2015, thus making of the inaugural Colombia Oro y Paz the ninth consecutive stage race in which he clocked up a win.
Two weeks after crashing out of Vuelta a San Juan stage 4, Fernando showed he's made a full recovery after the injuries he picked up in Argentina, on a fast and hectic day, which had everything – from a five-men breakaway that stayed at the front for the most part of the stage to a late crash which occurred before the final three kilometers.
In Ecuadorian Champion Jhonatan Narvaez and a relentless Iljo Keisse, Quick-Step Floors had two formidable riders who controlled the stage from the very outset and tenaciously led the chase behind the five escapees, before Maximiliano Richeze and Alvaro Hodeg split the bunch thanks to a fierce tempo with one kilometer to go, riding almost everyone off their wheel and leaving Gaviria in a perfect position.
The Colombian took a comfortable win in Palmira, beating fellow countryman Sebastian Molano (Manzana Postobon), with teammate Maximiliano Richeze coming across the line in third. So dominant and ruthless was the Quick-Step Floors train, that neo-pro Alvaro Hodeg finished fifth on the stage, despite easing up to celebrate Fernando's victory.
"It's special to be here, in my home country. The public was so warm and gave us an amazing welcome, not only today, but ever since the team has arrived here. I am happy that such a race is organized in Colombia, and even happier that I won, because taking a victory here is completely different than taking one in Europe", said Fernando, who has donned the leader's jersey in a stage race for the eighth time in his career.
Tuesday's win saw the Quick-Step Floors rider take the lead also in the points and youth classification at Colombia Oro y Paz, but Fernando knows it wouldn't have been possible without the invaluable help of his teammates: "The guys did a great job once again and all I had to do was finish it off. I really liked today's circuit, it was the perfect way to start this race, getting the rhythm in the legs and being surrounded by all these fantastic fans. I am also very glad to lead the race, and even though I know that I won't keep the jersey until the end, I still want to enjoy and sport it with pride over the next days."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images