Colombian cyclist Fernando Gaviria is nothing short of an iconoclast. He first got into sport through speed skating, not exactly a major national sport in his country. And then when he got into cycling, he turned out to be a sprinter in a country that has produced many of the world’s great climbers. But second-year professional Gaviria, is not bothered, because the 22-year-old Quick-Step Floors rider is focused on finding his own path. And maybe, just maybe, he will become Colombia’s first great classics rider. Look for him this weekend in Milan–San Remo, where he is one of the big pre-race favorites.

Words & Images: James Startt

peloton-subscribe-banner-2016-100

Peloton Magazine: How did you get into cycling?

Fernando Gaviria: Well, I was a bit of a marginal. My father is a gymnastics teacher in school and we grew up in the mountains [in La Ceja, a town of 50,000 people]. We actually started with speed skating, my sister and I, when I was very young. And then my dad put me on a bike, and I immediately loved it.

Peloton: You are atypical for a Colombian cyclist because, well, you are not a climber. The country has never really produced sprinters. Did you feel like an outcast as you were coming up in the ranks?

Gaviria: Yeah, it wasn’t easy for me. All the races were geared toward climbers. But I learned early that my strength was sprinting and tried to find ways to focus on that. The track offered me my first chance and then the national team gave me a chance to ride on the road in races like the Tour of San Luis. And that is where the big European teams saw me. It was thanks to my victories there that I was able to get a pro contract in Europe. But, hopefully, riders like me are showing that Colombia is not just a country of climbers, but a country of good cyclists.

Fernando Gaviria first gained international attention in Argentinian races like the Tour of San Luis, where he beat world champion Peter Sagan in 2016.
Fernando Gaviria first gained international attention in Argentinian races like the Tour of San Luis, where he beat world champion Peter Sagan in 2016.

Peloton: You got your first taste of the cobbled classics last year and had a good ride in Ghent–Wevelgem, finishing sixth. What did you take away from that? Did it give you some ideas for the future?

Gaviria: Yeah, it was an important period. I didn’t win, but I learned a lot. I learned for example that it is important to eat and drink after every cobblestone section. I didn’t do that enough last year. But I can say that one thing is for sure, I learned that I love the cobbles. The cobbled classics are not normal bike races. I love the vibration. I love the roads. Those races are just so unique. They are so extreme. A rider who can win in Belgium can win in extreme conditions—in the rain, in the wind, on the small roads. They are probably the most intelligent guys in the peloton. I look forward to doing more of those races this year. If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere! And I like the Belgian beer too!

Peloton: Is there any one race that makes you dream more than the others?

Gaviria: Paris–Roubaix!

Peloton: Last year, you were well placed in the final kilometer of Milan-San Remo before crashing. Is it your big objective of the springtime this year?

Gaviria: First, I want to win as many races as possible but, yeah, Milan-San Remo is just so beautiful. And doing Milan-San Remo last year, that helped. I learned a lot. I think I will handle the stress better this year. And I know where I have to be on the Poggio. From that point, we will see.