The young Colombian is omni-present for the start of 2015
The omnium is a strange event, the cycling equivalent of the heptathlon in athletics. It consists of a number of disciplines, with points awarded for overall position and silverware going to those with the most points. While Colombia’s Fernando Gaviria might not have dominated any single discipline, he had enough in the tank to place first in the overall rankings, earning him Colombia’s only gold of the event. Churlish critics complain that not winning any events outright diminishes his victory somewhat, but that misses the point of the omnium.
Gaviria proved he was good enough to compete in every discipline, and that’s why he won. He placed in the top three in each event on the first day of the UCI track cycling World Championships in France to sit pretty at the top of the rankings, and never really looked in danger from there on. So had no need to risk anything overexerting for an individual victory, eventually finishing ahead of Ozzie O’Shea (who beat him into second in the Individual Pursuit) by a comfortable 15 points.
However, the omnium gold hasn’t even been the highlight of his year so far, with two wins in San Luis preceding his track success. In the first stage of that race in January, he exploded early out of the pack with such ferocity that he simply blew everyone off his wheel. After the race, elite-level sprint king Mark Cavendish said that he’d never heard of this kid. Two days later, he had no such excuses as he got another lesson in long sprints from the gutsy young Antioqueño, who that time jumped even earlier and laid waste to the entire peloton en route to his second win of the season before a month had passed.
Colombia has a long and proud history of hill-hoppers, and the exploits of the class of 2014 were built on excellence in the mountains. Much rarer are the occasional sprinters that the country produces, and that’s just what makes Gaviria so special. At 1.80m and 70kg, he has the physique to handle power sprints, and at only 20 years of age plenty of bulking out is possible. There are a couple of other talented young riders in the country, but Gaviria is the standout star in the Colombian track scene.
Move to the road?
The only real question is how long the track can keep him before he moves across to road racing full-time. While he’s an excellent track racer, the lure of the big money available on the road will bring him over to Europe eventually. He’s got form: before San Luis he’d proved himself with junior world champ wins in the Madison and omnium back in 2012.
Last year was the year Colombian cycling broke out and went supermassive, with Nairo and Rigo dominating the Giro d’Italia and stage wins liberally peppered across the Colombian contingent. Gaviria won’t be riding in Europe until the 2016 season when he’ll turn professional for the aforementioned Cavendish’s team. He’ll certainly be one to watch then: if he can keep up this level of development, he’ll be groomed as a possible replacement for the already declining British hero.
Like many things in Colombia, the future of cycling gets brighter and brighter. Gaviria proved in the Road World Championships last year that he has the stamina for longer rides as he finished 20th. Might not seem like much, but remember this pup is only 20. To log such a high finish so young marks him out as a definite potential contender in the future. In a few years we could see a Colombian team lining up with Rigo making the breaks, Nairo wreaking havoc on any and every climb, and to top it off, now a genuine threat out of the pack if the first two get hauled in by the sprinters’ trains. If that doesn’t make you lick your lips like you’ve had too much ají, then nothing will!