One of the best lead-out men in the business, the 34-year-old Argentinean talked of his excellent start to the year, his partnership with Fernando Gaviria and the goals he has for his third season in the Quick-Step Floors jersey.
Hola a todos!
How are you all doing? I have just arrived and enjoyed a few days in Colombia after the first race of my season, Vuelta a San Juan, which took place in Argentina, my beloved home country. Did you get a chance to watch it online?
It was once again a fantastic race to be part of and had it not been for the unfortunate crash of Gaviria on stage 4, forcing him to abandon the race, I am sure we would have enjoyed even more success than we already did with two stage victories and a spell in the leader's jersey.
As in the previous year, we got off to a great start by winning the opening stage with Fernando in a very fast finish where nobody was even close to matching his astonishing power outputs. He is indeed one of the best riders in the world when it comes to fast finishes.
Talking about Fernando, what do you think of his remarkable record of having launched his last four seasons in Argentina by taking at least a victory every single time? Actually, we also share a record together at Vuelta a San Juan, having scored three wins each, a record-high so far in the race since it has achieved 2.1 status.
I too tasted the sweet bubbles of the winning champagne this year, when I was able to take the stage win on the day when Fernando crashed out. It was a tough stage with strong crosswinds that made the whole peloton nervous of being caught on the wrong side of the echelons.
Fortunately, we managed to regroup and change the tactics when Gaviria hit the tarmac, and when we reached the final hundred meters the guys had done an amazing job getting me in the perfect position to launch my sprint. I am really happy I was able to deliver and finish off their great work by crossing the line first to take our second win in the race in front of my friends, family and home country. An amazing experience!
Since I became a pro 13 years ago I haven't raced much in Argentina. It is not that I don't want to, but the races are few. However, every time I have been here has been nothing but amazing with all the people that come to cheer for me, for my team and the whole bunch.
In a country were Messi and football are on the lips of everybody, cycling is the first and most popular sport in San Juan, it is like a capital of cycling in Argentina. I am born and raised in Buenos Aires, in fact I still live there, although not for many weeks a year, but since I was young I have been coming to San Juan for training and racing. I even won the Vuelta a San Juan two times as a Junior rider.
I only stay in Buenos Aires a few weeks every year because when I am in Argentina, which is not often, I usually go to San Luis or San Juan for training. In Buenos Aires it is pan-flat, but in San Luis and San Juan you have a more varied landscape, even big mountains, so it is perfect for training.
That is also why two of my three brothers, who are also cyclists, live in San Luis and San Juan, respectively. All three of us took part in the races and our father was there too to help give bottles during the race to my team.
I am the lead-out man of Fernando Gaviria. That is my role on the team and I wouldn't change it for anything! Being the lead-out man means less pressure but I still have to deliver and be up there among the fastest. Fernando and I have been racing together for two years now and you can really feel the confidence we have in each other. He trusts where I go in the peloton.
Much of it comes naturally but we always talk after the races; should the lead-out have been longer or shorter, or what we could have done differently. When he wins, I win – it really is like that, and every time is equally beautiful.
That's the reason why his goals are my goals and why we share a very similar race program. Last year, we did the Giro d'Italia and this year the plan is to go to the Tour de France. It is the biggest and greatest race in the world, which puts more pressure on the both of us. It will be Fernando's first Tour but we still go there to fight for stage wins, that is our goal. It will be hard – the Tour is the Tour – as all the best sprinters will be there, but we are confident we can succeed.
I have been with the team for two seasons, now going into the third year. For me, it is the best squad in the world, which is why I hope I can finish my career here. Don't get me wrong, I hope I can add have a few more years to my career but it all the depends on my work. If I cannot do my job, when I am not in the best condition or my work is not perfect, I will stop.
I have a small dream about the Olympic Games in Tokyo, 2020. I did track cycling as a Junior and it would be an amazing experience to participate in the Olympic Games on the track but for now my focus is on the road.
Next week, we will race the first ever edition of Oro y Paz, a six-day stage race in Colombia – and after that I'll return for the whole season to Europe, where I live in Italy with my wife and kid. I will be missing South America, especially Argentina, but on the other hand I wouldn't miss the exciting season I have ahead of me with my second family in Europe, Quick-Step Floors Cycling Team.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images