• Fernando Gaviria with Australian Caleb Ewan at the Amgen Tour of California Stage 2 start. (Getty)Source: Getty
Fernando Gaviria has got that look – the crazy kind. Quick-Step Floors sports director Brian Holm likens it to his long-time charge Mark Cavendish.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
15 May 2018 - 6:54 PM  UPDATED 15 May 2018 - 6:56 PM

If you want to know the measure of a WorldTour sprinter, the “playboys” of the bunch, Holm is a reliable source. He’s worked with Cavendish, Andre Greipel, Marcel Kittel and now this 23-year-old Colombian homebody, who Holm believes can win a stage and challenge for the green jersey on debut at the Tour de France this year.

“I think they’ve all been a bit crazy but in craziness, he comes pretty close to Cav. Somebody like Kittel, Greipel, [Elia] Viviani, are almost normal people,” he says.

Craziness in this context, according to the Dane, is a positive quality and relates to audaciousness in a bunch sprint, superior bike handling able to find or create gaps most don’t see to exist.

Gaviria had that look in stage one of the Amgen Tour of California, sparring with Jasper Philipsen (Hagens Berman Axeon) in the bunch kick he won over Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) and Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe) to take the first leader’s jersey of the race.

Gaviria dominates high octane Tour of California opener
Australian Caleb Ewan appeared to come from nowhere to pull off a close second, Peter Sagan doing the same for third.

“He’s a sprinter and sprinters usually don’t brake too much. He takes, not really big risks but he never, never brakes and that’s a big problem, especially in the final when things get crazy. [We’re] trying to work a little bit on that and hopefully, he can make it now to the Tour without crashes,” senior teammate Iljo Keisse says. “Of course, he is very talented and he has big potential but he crashes a lot, unfortunately.”

Gaviria’s daring could be interpreted as well, or the nature of youth not yet inhibited by the bruises and breaks of experience.

Speaking at a post-race press conference after his stage one victory in Long Beach, Gaviria was gracious and quite conscious of the potentially Tour –ruining consequences a crash there in the hectic final may have had.

Quick-Step have stabilisers of another form in 35-year-olds Keisse and Max Richeze, who are working closely with the young, fearless, fast-man in California and through the season.

“I think the first year with us he was a bit more individual but now he starts to realise you have to look after the boys,” says Holm. “He is doing a good job with the people around him, getting close with Iljo Keisse, and they like him in the team now. It’s the small things you see with the team, he takes them out for dinner at night and organises.”

Trust is imperative to a successful lead-out, no less the one powering someone that Quick-Step Floors has put an almost unbelievable amount of stock behind given Gaviria’s Grand Tour experience comparative to noted rivals.

“He follows really good and, like you say, he has the trust. If I go left, he goes left, even if he thinks maybe it’s better on the right,” Keisse says, “That’s good, it’s difficult if you have a sprinter that goes his own way. If you’re in front of him you cannot look constantly behind, but he follows well.”

Since turning professional with an incarnation of the Belgian team in 2016, Gaviria has competed in only one Grand Tour – the Giro d’Italia last season. Though in fairness, he won four stages, marked a stint in the maglia rosa and claimed the points classification.

“You don’t have to be a mastermind of cycling to take him to the Tour de France - that was just a question of time. You could ask about why we didn’t do it last year, but we had Marcel [Kittel],” Holm says.

“I think he should be able to win a stage. To be honest, I’d be very surprised if he didn’t. And I think he’d be close for the green jersey.”

In California, Gaviria’s taking notes ahead of it all. And sending a strong message to his competition too.

“I think he could be the next big thing in cycling so it’s a pleasure to work with him and share a little bit of experience,” says Keisse.