• Fernando Gaviria will be one to watch if he can master the Milan-San Remo distance (Sirotti)Source: Sirotti
Zdenek Stybar is a healthy bet for Milan-San Remo but it’s his rookie pro team-mate Fernando Gaviria that has captured international media attention ahead of the first Monument of the season.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
19 Mar 2016 - 4:30 PM  UPDATED 19 Mar 2016 - 4:38 PM

Gaviria is Colombia’s answer to Australia's Caleb Ewan, and with a recent turn of success on the track and road, has garnered headlines in the lead-up to the 291km classic he’ll compete at for the first time.

Etixx-QuickStep sports director Brian Holm has been unequivocal in his praise of the up-and-coming sprinter, who this month won gold in the omnium at the London Track World Cup before claiming a stage win at Tirreno-Adriatico.

Holm noted the 21-year-old grew weary toward the end of the ‘preparation’ stage race, however, he added the team will pull for him should the race come down to a group finish and he be in the mix.

“With a lot of these races you have to know them, you really have to understand the race and that could take a few years,” Holm said.

“He’s going to win it sooner or later, I’m sure about that because he can get over the climbs.”

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Gaviria won’t be under insurmountable pressure to perform in the race Etixx-QuickStep doesn’t have to assume immediate control of.

Holm attributed that responsibility to rival outfits BMC, with Greg Van Avermaet, Tinkoff, with Peter Sagan, Katusha, with Alexander Kristoff, and others.

“In the early classics we’re not the big favourites,” Holm said. “That job we leave up to Sagan and Van Avermaet, they’re going to control the race.”

Stybar’s performances in the lead-up to La Primavera speak for themselves, and indicate he should be able to hold his own in a more selective finale.

The “flying” 30-year-old will enter the Italian spectacle on the back of an impressive campaign at Tirreno-Adriatico in which he won a stage and marked a stint in the leader’s jersey before finishing seventh overall.

The showing followed a second place finish to another title favourite, Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) at Strade Bianche earlier this month.

“Going downhill there might be one rider who can follow him and that’s Sagan,” Holm said. “I think they’re the two fastest [descenders] in the bunch, they’re very good technical riders so he is going to be an important card for us.”