A superb lead-out and a well-timed sprint helped the Colombian neo-pro claim his sixth victory of the season.
At just 22 years of age, Fernando Gaviria has all that it takes to become a huge rider: talent, panache, striking versatility, huge ambition and a strong and dominant team by his side, capable of protecting him and making the difference when it matters. All these were there for everyone to see in such events such as the Tour de San Luis, Tirreno-Adriatico or the Tour de Pologne, and most recently in the Grand Prix Impanis-Van Petegem (Brakel – Boortmeerbeek, 200 kilometers), one of the last Belgian races of the year, held on a course which put on the table a succession of hills and cobbled segments.
Benjamin Giraud (Delko Marseille), Tom Dernies (Wallonie-Bruxelles), Julien Mortier (Color Code), Timothy Stevens (Crelan-Vastgoedservice), Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) were the six man to book a place on Saturday in the break which needed more than 40 kilometers to establish. As their lead didn't go north of four minutes, the escapees were brought back with 50 kilometers left, under the impetus of Etixx – Quick-Step and BMC.
It was no surprise that the race continued at an aggressive pace, and soon, another group formed, Fernando Gaviria, Magnus Cort (Orica-BikeExchange), Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) being some of the big names who pulled to build a maximum gap of 30 seconds. Fernando was at all times in control and at the pointy end of the break, responding to attacks and setting the pace, to ensure the move will be a long-lived one.
That 10-rider group, although a strong and cohesive one, was reabsorbed by the peloton 9 kilometers away from the line and despite a couple of riders attempting to get clear and outfox the bunch, everything sticked together until the finish in Boortmeerbeek.
Etixx – Quick-Step took the front with two kilometers to go and delivered a solid and impressive lead-out to Fernando Gaviria, who finished off the work of his teammates in spectacular fashion, getting the better of his opponents to become the first Colombian winner of the Grand Prix Impanis-Van Petegem. Timothy Dupont (Verandas Willems) was second, while Max Richeze, the last man in Fernando's train, rounded out the podium of the 19th edition.
"It was a complicated and nervous race today. When Van Avermaet attacked, I jumped immediately, because I sensed that the move could have a chance to go all the way. Then, when they caught us, we switched our focus to the bunch sprint."
Julien, Guillaume, Fabio and Max all brought me in an excellent position from which I couldn't miss.
"After coming second yesterday in Koolskamp, where my legs weren't so good, I wanted to repay them for their hard work and I'm happy to have managed that", said the 22-year-old, who netted Etixx – Quick-Step's 51st victory of the season.
Fernando Gaviria is the most successful neo-pro of 2016 in terms of victories, with six wins in the bag, and the one he got on Saturday afternoon has a special meaning for him: "I can't describe how delighted I am for taking my first ever victory in Belgium, a country I love and which breathes cycling, a country with incredible fans and spectacular races. I like this kind of parcours, with short climbs and cobbles, as it really suits me. I am extremely happy for winning today. Now I will continue to work hard for the final races of the season and give it my all for Etixx – Quick-Step."
Photo credit: ©Kristof Ramon