Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

Fernando Gaviria: Vuelta a Espana my chance to inspire future cyclists from Colombia and UAE

Each week a cyclist from UAE Team Emirates is writing a column for The National, providing insight from the UCI World Tour and offering their thoughts on the season. This week: former Giro d'Italia points champion Fernando Gaviria

Fernando Gaviria joined UAE Team Emirates at the start of the 2019 season. The Colombian sprinter has enjoyed plenty of success on the road and track during his career, including two World Championships gold medals in the Omnium, the points classification title at the 2017 Giro d'Italia, and stage wins at the Tour de France. Courtesy UAE Team Emirates
Fernando Gaviria joined UAE Team Emirates at the start of the 2019 season. The Colombian sprinter has enjoyed plenty of success on the road and track during his career, including two World Championships gold medals in the Omnium, the points classification title at the 2017 Giro d'Italia, and stage wins at the Tour de France. Courtesy UAE Team Emirates

I was born in a small town called La Ceja, not far from Medellin in the middle of Colombia. For as long as I can remember, the people of Colombia have been super passionate about cycling, but my fellow countrymen haven’t always been top contenders for the general classification at grand tours or for the sprints in the biggest races.

That all started to change when Nairo Quintana won the Giro d’Italia in 2014 and, of course, last week when Egan Bernal became the first Colombian to win the yellow jersey at the Tour de France.

It was an amazing moment for every Colombian cycling fan and it will have inspired hundreds of thousands of young kids to get on bikes. Encouraging youth participation is something I am very passionate about – and it’s one of the reasons I joined UAE Team Emirates.

The whole team, from the management down to the riders, is committed to helping grow cycling and drive a culture of health and wellness in the UAE. This is important and it’s something I want to be a part of.

I might be from South America, but every time I pull on this jersey I know the positive impact my performances can have on people in the Emirates. I saw it first hand when I won a stage at the UAE Tour in February, the country went crazy – the fans, the media, the cycling community – everyone was so supportive. It was amazing to be a part of that! It’s the thrill of winning but also the responsibility I feel to be the best that drives me on – it makes me train harder and want to sprint faster.

Finding my fitness

I am currently in Eastern Europe at the Tour of Poland. It’s my first race back since my knee injury and I’m starting to feel good. This has showed in my results, too. I’m still not at my best, but I managed to take a second place in Stage 1 and again in Stage 2, just missing out to Pascal Ackermann (Bora Hansgrohe) in the sprint finish in Krakow and then again to Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton Scott) in Katowice.

On Tuesday I came ninth. That was a tough sprint – my third in as many days. The finish was challenging due the wet road and the nervousness in the bunch. We came out of the last turn in a good position but I was boxed-in several times during the last 400 metres and I wasn’t able to get my sprint going. We tried our best and it didn't work out, but that's cycling. Sometimes you win. But most of the time you don’t.

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Behind-the-scenes at the Vuelta a Espana with UAE Team Emirates

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Last weekend in London, our other world class sprinter, [Alexander] Kristoff was in action. I watched some of the race back afterwards and feel bad for the team. They put in a great performance and did a lot of work at the front to make the race as difficult as possible.

But in the final two kilometres there was a big crash and Kristoff got caught up in it, losing quite a lot of ground. He put in a strong effort to get back to the front but wasn’t quite able to work with [Roberto] Ferrari to launch his sprint as it was quite a chaotic finish. Still, coming top 10 in the Ride London-Surrey Classic isn’t a bad thing.

Vuelta on the horizon

Right now, I am focused on using the Tour of Poland to build my form ahead of my first grand tour of the season. There’s just over two weeks left until the Vuelta a Espana.

It’s the first time I have ever competed in this race, so I am really looking forward to it. This year it covers nearly 3,275km of road, with a lot of climbing along the way.

However there are six flat stages for the sprinters to contend and I would love to come away with my name against one of those.

It’s an achievement that could help inspire a new generation of cyclists to take up the sport, both back home in Colombia, but also in my honorary home in the UAE.

Updated: August 7, 2019 09:02 AM

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