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by Shane Stokes
January 23, 2018
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Repeating his performance of twelve months ago, Fernando Gaviria once again won the opening stage of the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina. The Colombian easily beat Niccolo Bonifazio (Bahrain-Merida), Matteo Pelucchi (Bora-Hansgrohe), Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) plus the rest of the main bunch into Pocito.
“The team did a really good job, they were perfect,” the QuickStep Floors rider said. Iljo [Keisse] – who is the team’s captain – made things look easy and did an extraordinary job. You can see how important is the experience he brings into the squad. Alvaro [Hodeg], who rode his first pro race, also had an important contribution and I’m proud of him, while Max [Maximiliano Richese] did what he does best and left me in a perfect position to take the victory.”
The 148 kilometre stage began in San Juan and had just one King of the Mountains climb. Early on Adrian Richeze (A.C.A. Virgen De Fatima), Pablo Anchieri (Uruguay) and Daniel Juarez (Asociacion Civil Mardan) attacked, with Anchieri taking the first intermediate sprint. Four others then bridged – Victor Olivares (Chile), Duilio Ramos (Argentina), Facundo Cattapan (Municipalidad de Rawson) and Juan Melivilo (Municipalidad de Pocito), with this septet opening a gap of more than two minutes.
Juarez won the day’s KOM, thus taking the first mountain’s jersey, while Richeze took the second intermediate sprint. The leaders were then gradually hauled back by the bunch, with the seven finally caught with 19 kilometres to go.
QuickStep Floors worked hard to set Gaviria up and things worked to perfection, earning him the opening stage and the overall lead. “The stage was short and fast, especially in the closing kilometres, a sign that many teams wanted the victory, but the team was very strong,” he said. “It’s always nice to win your first race of the season, because it shows that you had a good winter preparation and this kind of result gives you confidence.”