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20-year-old Gaviria from the Colombian national team seemed to be at ease when he beat Cavendish and Modolo in a bunch sprint to win the first stage of the Tour de San Luis

Photo: Sirotti






19.01.2015 @ 23:01 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

20-year-old Fernando Gaviria (Colombian national team) created a major surprise when he beat Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) and Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) in a bunch sprint to win the first stage of the Tour de San Luis. The Colombian anticipated his famous rivals by launching a long sprint and none of the stars managed to pass the surprise winner who took the first leader’s jersey in the 7-day race.


After Marcel Kittel took the first win in the People’s Choice Classic, Mark Cavendish was eager to prove himself ready for the 2015 sprints by opening his account right from the beginning in the Tour de San Luis. The conditions for the fast Brit were perfect as his first race of the year was a flat opening stage of the Tour de San Luis that was destined to end in a bunch sprint.


Cavendish asked his Etixx-QuickStep teammates to control the race throughout the entire stage and the Belgian team got almost no help in trying to bringing back the early 3-rider break. Strong work by Guillaume van Keirsbulck and Lukasz Wisniowski paid off and both the trio and the many late attacks were brought back in time for the sprinters to battle it out.


Michal Kwiatkowski showed his rainbow jersey in the best possible way when he led the peloton under the flamme rouge and he delivered the sprint train of Fabio Sabatini and Cavendish in the perfect position with a few hundred metres to go. When Sabatini did his lead-out, a Cavendish win seemed to be almost guaranteed but an unknown Colombian had a different plan.


Riding for the Colombian national team, Fernando Gaviria surprised his rivals by launching a long sprint and even though Cavendish quickly caught his wheel, the Brit lacked the power to pass the Colombian. He made a big attempt to do so but had to settle for second while Sacha Modolo who had stayed in Cavendish’s wheel completed the podium.


With the win, Gaviria is a surprise first leader of the race but he is unlikely to defend his jersey for long. Tomorrow the riders face the first big test in the mountains when a flat stage ends with the short, steep 4.8km if Mirador de Potrero. The climb may not produce big time gaps but will certainly provide the first indication of the potential winners of the race.


A flat stage

The 9th Tour de San Luis kicked off with a mostly flat 186.8km from San Luis to Villa Mercedes. The riders faced their only climbing right from the beginning as they contested the only KOM sprint after 18.5km and from there it was a mostly downhill run to the final flat 60km. The terrain was expected to suit the sprinters but the wind could prevent the expected bunch sprint.


After a rainy start to the day, the riders took the start in sunny conditions and they were eager to kick off the season with a bang. Lots of attacks were launched in the first part of the race and as they reached the site of the KOM sprint, nothing had stuck yet. Kleber Da Silva (Funvic) benefited from the situation to become the first holder of the mountains jersey when he beat Ignacio Perez (San Juan) and Juan Esteban Arango (Colombia) in the battle for the points.


The break gets clear

As the riders started to descend, things slowed down a bit and this allowed the early break to get established. Perez was on fire and he was again part of the action when he joined David Williams (Jamis) and Leandro Messineo (San Luis) to form the trio that would animate most of the day’s racing.


The trio started to build an advantage and after 53km of racing, they were four minutes ahead of the peloton. However, Etixx-QuickStep were unwilling to let the opportunity of a sprint win for Mark Cavendish slip away and so they put Guillaume Van Keirsbulck and Lukasz Wisniowski on the front of the peloton to try to stabilize the situation.


Etixx-QuickStep get assistance

While Messineo beat Williams and Perez in the first intermediate sprint, the pair worked hard to control the gap. Their work paid off and with 105km to go, they had reduced the deficit to 3.27.


Surprisingly, Etixx-QuickStep got assistance from the Inteja team from the Dominican Republic who were keen to set up Joaquin Sobrino for a sprint win. The two teams shared the workload and made sure that the gap was kept steady for a while.


The break is caught

At the second intermediate sprint with 97km to go, Messineo was again the fastest as he held off Perez and Williams in the battle for the points. At this point, however, their advantage had come down to just 2.50.


Etixx-QuickStep was now in complete control of the peloton and with 55km to go, they had brought their deficit down to just 1.35. As the peloton continued to approach the leaders, the break split up, with Williams dropping off the pace, but moments later the escapees had been brought back.


More attacks

The big teams had now positioned themselves near the front as Etixx-QuickStep briefly stepped off the gas. This allowed two riders to make an attack and it was a Cannondale-Garmin rider who dropped his companion to continue on his own.


Etixx-QuickStep now had the entire team lined out on the front and they accelerated hard. The lone leader managed to stay clear for a few kilometres but with less than 15km to go, it was all back together.


The peloton splits

The Etixx riders were unable to prevent another two riders from making a late attack. The pair built a solid advantage and were still clear as they went through the late roundabouts. The effort were in vain though and under the impetus of the Etixx team, they were brought back.


More trains now tried to battle for position with the mighty Belgian team and the peloton was completely single file when they brought back another late attack. The fierce pace created several splits in the peloton and suddenly a small 10-rider group had built an advantage.


Lampre-Merida take control

It was now Lampre-Merida riding on the front, trying to set up Sacha Modolo for a sprint win and their fast pace made it impossible for the main peloton to rejoin the leaders. Etixx-QuickStep again took control and it was van Keirsbulck and world champion Michal Kwiatkowski who rode on the front when the peloton regrouped inside the final 3km.


The Belgian team got under pressure when another three riders took a flyer but the hard work of Kwiwakowski brought the trio back as they passed the flamme rouge. The world champion took an impressive turn before he swung off, leaving it to Fabio Sabatini to lead Mark Cavendish out. All was set for for another Cavendish win but it was Gaviria who took a surprise victory.



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