Image 1 of 7
Fernando Gaviria (Movistar) sprinted to victory on the opening stage of the Tour Colombia, much to the delight of the local commentators.
Mark Cavendish’s Astana team worked the most to control the race but the Manxman didn’t have enough speed and finished third on the stage behind Davide Persico (Bingoal WB).
Astana seemed to have everything lined up, reeling in the last two riders from the breakaway, Cristian Muñoz (NU Colombia) and Lauro Moro (Swift Carbon) with 8km to go and setting a quick pace to deter attackers.
However, the run-in to the finish got messy as Astana appeared to run out of gas in the final kilometre. Gaviria came to the fore as Cavendish lost position and held on to snag the stage win and first leader’s jersey.
How it unfolded
At the signing-on podium in Paipa, there was a warm welcome for the visiting Mark Cavendish and for Colombian favourites like Egan Bernal and Rigoberto Urán, but the longest acclaim on the opening morning of the Tour Colombia, inevitably, was reserved for local favourite Nairo Quintana, who hails from nearby Cómbita.
Across the Atlantic, it was reported on Tuesday that Quintana’s erstwhile doctor Fredy Alexander Gonzales Torres would go on trial in Marseille in September for an alleged doping offence on the 2020 Tour de France. Here, in the heart of Quintana country, the news scarcely seemed to register. Quintana was heartily cheered as he sets off on his second act in Movistar colours after a year on the sidelines following his positive test for Tramadol on the 2022 Tour.
Although the stage took place amid the cloud-flecked peaks of the Cordillera Oriental of the Andes, the opening day of the Tour Colombia lent itself very clearly to the sprinters. The route avoided climbs on the road from Paipa to Duitama, while the finishing circuit gave the fast men a close look at the finale.
There was a rapid start to proceedings once the flag dropped, with an enterprising break of seven riders pressing clear in the opening kilometres. Brayan Sánchez (Team Medellín), Ignacio Prado (Canel’s-Java), Lauro Moro (Swift Carbon Pro Cycling), Diego Ochoa (Team Saitel), Cristian Muñoz (NU Colombia), David Gómez (Team Sistecrédito) and Iván Ojeda (Colombia Potencia de Vida-Strongman) quickly built up a lead of a minute or so over the bunch.
The peloton, however, was reluctant to grant the escapees much leeway. Despite the 2,500-metre altitude, the average pace an eye-watering 48.57 kph in the first hour of racing, and the break’s advantage never nudged much beyond the 1:20 they had on reaching Sogamoso early in the day.
Out in front, Gómez picked up two of the three intermediate sprints as the break began to splinter, but the day was edging inexorably towards the anticipated sprint duel between Cavendish and Fernando Gaviria, with Astana-Qazaqstan and Movistar to the fore in dragging the peloton along the finishing circuit around Duitama.
With 30km to go, the gap was down to 38 seconds and the situation looked under control, though the persistent rain showers would inevitably complicate the run-in.
Results powered by FirstCycling