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by Shane Stokes
November 27, 2015
Photography by By Cor Vos
He may still be just 21 years of age and to have only raced as a stagiaire thus far but, according to Brian Holm, Etixx – Quick-Step’s young sprinter Fernando Gaviria is a huge talent.
The Colombian rider competed towards the end of the season for the team and made a huge impression on Holm, who worked with Mark Cavendish for many years, guiding the Briton into becoming the best sprinter of the modern era.
“Gaviria, our Colombian sprinter, is the most exciting thing I have seen for many years in cycling,” Holm told CyclingTips on Thursday.
“He did some crazy stuff I never saw before, really. I saw him first time, he had just came from the track to the road. He was going so fast in the Ride London Classic, the one day race. Okay he got a cramp in the last five kilometres, but he was unbelievable there.
“Then he went on to ride the Tour of Britain… Until he got the problem with his knee [which caused his withdrawal from the race prior to stage five – ed.], he was riding on the front, pulling the bunch for 150 kilometres.
“When it was splitting up, he was still with the first on the climbs despite pulling for that distance.”
Holm believes he might well have triumphed that day, save for some bad luck.
“He had a problem with his brakes, he couldn’t do the sprint. But the day after he won like a good Cavendish in the past, and he is just a young kid.”
Gaviria’s triumph was into Blythe at the end of stage four. Winning as a stagiaire was impressive enough, but the manner in which he did it was what really struck Holm.
“Greipel had already launched his sprint,” he recollected. “He [Gaviria] was basically looking around for Cav, to lead him out, but Cav was not there. Then he went himself and beat Greipel. That was just crazy, what he did.”
Gaviria had already shown his class at the start of the season, beating Cavendish to take two stages in the Tour de San Luis. He then went on to win world championship track gold in the omnium, adding to the world junior omnium and madison titles he picked up in 2012.
Team owner Patrick Lefevere went as far as to say Gaviria could prove to be the successor to Cavendish. Indeed, the younger rider is the one who will stay with the team in 2016. With Lefevere apparently unwilling to do what it took to keep him, Cavendish and the squad parted ways. The Briton will instead race for Team Dimension Data for the next three seasons.
Taking up the role of the team’s senior sprinter in 2016 will Marcel Kittel. He dominated the sport’s sprints for two years, winning four stages apiece in the 2013 and 2014 Tours de France. However he had a very disappointing season this year and is hoping to turn things around with Etixx – Quick-Step in 2016.
Holm admits that he isn’t yet certain how that will go. “To be honest, I don’t have a clue,” he said, when asked how he thought the German rider will fit in. “To be honest, I don’t really know him at all. I know Cav better than anybody.
“I spoke to his sports directors and they simply said he was too lazy last season. According to Kittel, he was racing too early after his illness. So I don’t know.
“He will either do it or he won’t. We have to wait and see for him. Maybe he can win, come back like the old Kittel, like last year, and win a lot of stages. He was superior last year in cycling, like Greipel was this year. If a sprinter loses his morale, it is really, really difficult to get it back, so we will see.”
He pledged that the team will do what he can to put Kittel back on top. “Of course we are going to support him 110 percent. But at the end of the day it is up to the sprinter himself.
“Everybody has got different opinions about what was wrong with him, but it is better to let the legs talk. Then we will see who was right about this year for him.”
However that goes, Holm doesn’t hold back in his praise for the younger of the two sprinters.
“Gaviria is a complete rider. He can climb also. He is like Sagan,” he said. “He can get over the small climbs, even when he has been pulling the whole day. Most sprinters aren’t exactly climbers, but for sure he can do it also. He has got something extra, and is still so fast.
“If everything goes right with him, he will be huge. I can’t judge if he is the new Bettini, Sagan or Cavendish, but I am sure he is going to make it far.
“He is the most exciting signing I have seen for many years. He is going to give the older sprinters some headaches, trust me.”