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Securing attention with standout performances in the Tour de San Luis last month, the 20 year old Colombian riders Rodrigo Contreras and Fernando Gaviria have inked two year agreements with the Etixx-QuickStep team, starting in 2016.
Gaviria stunned the peloton when he outsprinted Mark Cavendish to take two stages in the Tour de San Luis, and last week won the men’s omnium at the UCI world track championships in Paris.
As for Contreras, he too highlighted his talent in San Luis when he finished fifth overall and was the best young rider.
Both riders entered into negotiations with the Etixx-QuickStep team and then underwent evaluations at the squad’s Bakala Academy in Belgium on Tuesday morning.
According to Etixx-QuickStep CEO Patrick Lefevere, that was enough to convince him and the team to sign them up.
“We are satisfied about this agreement because we were following both these riders for the past year,” he said. “It was nice to finally sit down with them and talk with them personally. I think they are good guys.
“They are motivated, but are also quality riders as you can see with the recent performance of Contreras at Tour de San Luis, and with Gaviria winning the omnium at Track Worlds.”
Gaviria, who was the under 23 Pan American road champion last year, said he was really looking forward to joining the team.
“This was my first choice,” he confirmed. “I love this team and have followed them since I was a kid. I have strong admiration for Mark Cavendish. At Tour de San Luis I was constantly watching him, trying to understand his movements and learn as much as I can from him.
“For me it is super to join a team that is so skilled in the sprints, and provides a good structure for me to do my job and get better at my job. For me it is a question of learning a lot with Etixx – Quick-Step, and to me this is the best team to learn from and also be able to do my job as best I can.”
Inking Gaviria achieves two things for the team. Firstly, it secures the debut of one of the most promising young sprinters in the sport. Secondly, it gives Mark Cavendish further incentive to work hard in 2015.
The latter is yet to be offered a new contract for 2016. Lefevere said recently that he has to prove he can still take the top races, including Tour de France stages.
If Cavendish wants to remain with the team – and wants to stay its number one sprinter – the message seems to be that he needs to earn both. He’s clocked up five wins thus far this season but Lefevere wants to see him add to that.
That said, the Briton has moved to play down any talk of rivalry.
— Mark Cavendish (@MarkCavendish) February 24, 2015
Gaviria could end up donning a team jersey earlier than next season. “There is a possibility for him to ride with the team as a stagiaire this season, but we will decide later,” Lefevere said. “We also talked a lot about his desire to participate in the 2016 Summer Olympics on the track. We respect and support his decision.
“Next year Fernando will have a program that will allow him to be in the best condition for the Olympics, while also participating in road racing.”
Contreras is a different type of talent, being better in the mountains and against the clock. In addition to his strong performance in the Tour de San Luis, he was also winner of the U23 time trial event at the 2014 Pan American road championships.
“I am over the moon to have this opportunity,” he said. “It’s one of the best teams in the world and I am really looking forward to riding for this team. I am a climber, but I also love the time trial discipline. My idol is Rigoberto Uran, who races for this team, so to come here and learn from guys like him is really a dream come true.”