Fernando Gaviria returned with a bang on the scene of his breakthrough, Argentina, nabbing a commanding win in Pocito, where the first stage of the 36th edition of Vuelta a San Juan concluded. It was for the fourth straight year that the Colombian started his season with a victory in Argentina, where he began making a name for himself back in 2015, when the two wins he scored at the Tour de San Luis landed him a place in the Quick-Step Floors team.
Seven riders jumped from the peloton early in the stage and built a four-minute lead before the first intermediate sprint, but once Iljo Keisse moved to the head of proceedings it became clear that their chances of making it all the way were slim, as the experienced Belgian put in some monster pulls at the front together with neo-pro Alvaro Hodeg, reducing the gap to 1:30 by the time the race entered on the local circuit.
The catch was made with 15 kilometers to go, and despite a late attack of Gerardo Tivani (Municipalidad de Pocito), the stage culminated in a bunch gallop, on which Fernando Gaviria put his mark, beating by several bike lengths Niccolo Bonifazio (Bahrain-Merida) and Matteo Pelucchi (Bora-hansgrohe). It was the 23-year-old’s six victory in Argentina and it marked the eighth consecutive stage race in which he scored a win, a remarkable series that stretches back to the 2016 edition of the Tour de Pologne.
At the post-race press conference, Fernando had only words of praise for his teammates, who controlled the 148.9km stage: “It doesn’t matter if I’m riding San Juan or the Giro d’Italia, I always want to win and that’s what I did today. The team did a really good job, they were perfect. Iljo – 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, who rode his first pro race, also had an important contribution and I’m proud of him, while Max did what he does best and left me in a perfect position to take the victory.”
“The stage was short and fast, especially in the closing kilometers, a sign that many teams wanted the victory, but the team was very strong. 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. I’m also happy for leading the general classification and wearing the white jersey; hopefully I will have other chances to get some more good results this week”, concluded the Colombian rider of Quick-Step Floors, who tops the overall standings of the Vuelta a San Juan for the second time in his career.