Fernando Gaviria (Colombia) won the opening stage of Tour de San Luis, a 186.8-kilometer race from San Luis to Villa Mercedes, Argentina on Monday.
The 20-year-old Colombian timed his sprint to perfection, allowing Etixx-Quick-Step to orchestrate a massive leadout before driving to the line in the closing meters.
“Gaviria got the first jump, and he deserved the win today,” said Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick-Step), who was second. “I saw 300 meters to to go; it was a real small sign. I waited for 200, I didn’t see 200, and then he jumped. He went super fast. I saw the line, I didn’t see 200 yet, but at that point I knew I just had to go. It was too late to catch up with him. But we did all we could going into this race, and I know we will keep working hard, as we did today, in the next stages to try and get a good result.”
Gaviria was the 2012 junior world champion on the track in the omnium event.
The day’s early action came from an escape of three riders: Leandro Messineo (San Luis Somos Todos), David Williams (Jamis-Hagens Berman), and Ignacio Pérez (Team San Juan).
Their lead was as great as four minutes in the first third of the stage, but as they reached the halfway mark, it diminished to just under three minutes. With 55 kilometers left, Etixx-Quick-Step became a presence at the front of the peloton, quickly bringing the gap down to under two minutes.
At about 15 kilometers to go, the breakaway trio was reeled in. Then, Cannondale-Garmin’s Ted King and Adrian Alvarado (Chile), counterattacked with 10km left, but their effort was short-lived.
Several opportunists tried their hand in the closing kilometers, but to no avail.
A split formed on a short descent before the finish, and soon about 15 riders had a gap over the main peloton. But once again, the group welded the race back together on the wide-open, straight roads around Villa Mercedes.
Michal Kwiatkowski kicked off the Etixx-Quick-Step leadout with about one kilometer left, but the team’s star sprinter, Cavendish, was unable to come around Gaviria, who gutted out a long sprint to win by a couple wheels. Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida).
“My teammates did a perfect job to keep me in front,” Cavendish said. “We were in front for the last 50 kilometers. They did an incredible job, and that’s why I am disappointed that I was unable to pay them back for their work.”
Stage 2 will start in La Punta and ride 185.3 kilometers of lumpy road before finishing on Mirador de Potrero, a 4.8km climb that averages 6.7 percent, finishing 4,166 feet above sea level.