The injured Kristoff was the fast-man at UAE Team Emirates in 2018 but will share the spotlight now with Colombian sensation Gaviria, who joins the squad on a three-year deal.
The pair are different sprinters – Kristoff more versatile and Gaviria fearlessly fast in a mass gallop – but it hasn’t stopped conjecture about how the pair will be able to harmoniously co-exist.
“It’s an interesting question. Gaviria is the fastest guy out of the two and probably if you look at strength, Kristoff is the strongest guy,” said UAE Team Emirates sports director Neil Stephens.
“Who leads who out? The best one to get the best result. It’ll change from stage to stage and feeling to feeling. We’ve got a fair idea of who we think should be leading out, but they’ve both got the flexibility to chat amongst themselves and work it out.
“The clear point of the matter is if you combine the power of the two of them and put it together in a sprint, we hope it’s going to be pretty hard to beat.”
Kristoff and Gaviria won’t have entirely separate race programs this season. They’re set to also compete alongside each other in a “few” of the spring classics, including Milan-San Remo, the Tour de Suisse as well as the Tour de France.
Kristoff won the final stage of the Tour in Paris last year, after virtually all of the pure sprinters missed time cuts in the mountains. Gaviria, then with Quick-Step, was among the latter but claimed two stage victories before bowing out.
“A lot of the times they’re separate programs but they cross over in moments. There are certain races just for Gaviria and certain races just for Kristoff,” said Stephens.
“I think each case is a stubby on its own. We’ve worked pretty hard right from the signings of the guys, to training camps and general conversations behind closed doors and in public. At the moment things are going really well, so hopefully that transcends through the races.”
Stage 2 is a 184km flat run from Yas Island that Kristoff and Gaviria, in terms of runs on the board, will enter on similar footing. Kristoff suffered a cut to his arm that required eight stitches when he crashed out of the final stage of the Tour of Oman last week, but said he was fine on arrival in the UAE. In Oman he tipped he’d be a “helper” here, with UAE Team Emirates also looking to support climber and title contender Dan Martin.
Gaviria seems to have recovered from respiratory problems that saw him prematurely exit the Tour of Colombia earlier this month. The 24-year-old has been humble about the balance between he and Kristoff.
“He’s an interesting guy, he’s a winner, a special character,” said Stephens. “I suppose a lot of the sprinters are special characters. He likes gloss, he likes being a bit special, he likes fast cars. He’s shiny. On the other hand, Kristoff is a Viking, tough and strong. That’s where he gets his strengths. Each to their own, we work around that.”