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Colombian Gaviria only has eyes for gold

Cycling 2015 Getty Images
13 Aug 2016
RIO 2016 , Olympic News, Cycling Track, Colombia

Only gold will do for Fernando Gaviria as he attempts to become Colombia's first ever Olympic track cycling champion when the omnium - “ironman” event of the sport - starts on 14 August in Rio.

Gaviria is the reigning world champion in the multi-discipline test that comprises six different challenges - the scratch race, individual pursuit, elimination race, time trial, flying lap and points race – which take place over two days and require a delicate balance of endurance and raw speed. He will start as favourite, but faces tough opposition from the likes of Germany's Roger Kluge, Australia's Glenn O'Shea and former road team-mate and Tour de France sprint king Mark Cavendish of Great Britain.

Gaviria has been keeping a low profile since arriving in Rio for his first Olympic Games, but has set himself some clear targets. “If you gave me a piece of paper which guaranteed I'd get bronze, I wouldn't sign it, because I'm somebody who never wants to take the easy option,” says the 21-year-old.

“I would prefer to finish fourth in the omnium and be lying on the ground exhausted and dizzy after 160 laps than go in with a strategy designed specifically on making the bronze. I want to use every last drop of energy to try and win the gold outright.”

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He can expect plenty of South American support in the velodrome as he tries to surpass the feat of fellow Colombian Rigoberto Uran who won a silver medal in the road race in London four years ago.

Omnium, which replaced the individual pursuit, the points race and the Madison for the 2012 Games, can be compared to decathlon and heptathlon in track and field, and is a test to find the best all-round cyclist.

Gaviria, who is tipped for a stellar road career in future, says the omnium is all about pacing and recovery. “It's a race you have to take very calmly, which is going to be anything but easy, because in the Olympics the first three segments of the omnium [scratch race, individual pursuit and elimination race] are all on the same day,” he explains.

Kluge, runner-up to Gaviria at the most recent world championships in London says, the Colombian will be the man to beat. “He is the two-times world champion, he is the big favourite,” said the German.
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