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Abu Dhabi, stage 2: Viviani wins, seizes race lead

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AFP) — Elia Viviani of Quick-Step Floors won the second stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour in a sprint finish Thursday and took the race leader’s red jersey.

At the end of a flat, 154-kilometer stage animated by several failed breakaways, the Italian edged Dutchman Danny van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo) and German Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) in the dash to the line at Yas Beach.

“We knew the last part of the race was with a headwind,” Viviani said. “I feel lucky to have Quick-Step for leading me out: three guys are able to accelerate at the same speed I sprint. Now I just have to stay focused on Fabio Sabatini’s wheel. … With Max Richeze, we actually have the two best lead-out men in the world, not just one.”

Norwegian Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Emirates), who won Wednesday’s opening stage, finished seventh and slipped to second overall, although he has the same combined time as Viviani.

Van Poppel is third in the GC standings at 4 seconds behind Viviani.

Midway through the race, it looked that Viviani wouldn’t have a chance to contest the sprint. The field was split into several groups due to crosswinds. The Italian found himself in the second echelon, but he managed to bridge back to the front.

“I was confident that our front group would make it because there were a lot of GC guys taking turns and I thought I had a big chance to win because Elia wasn’t up there,” van Poppel said.

“Elia Viviani is the fastest sprinter at the moment. It’s not a shame to be second to him. But I’m disappointed because the team did a great job and I really wanted to finish it off.”

Friday’s 133km third stage runs on a city center circuit in Abu Dhabi.

Top five, stage 2

1. Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors), in 3:15:30
2. Danny van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo), s.t.
3. Pascal Akermann (Bora-Hansgrohe), s.t.
4. Kristoffer Halvorsen (Team Sky), s.t.
5. Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott), s.t.

Top-five overall

1. Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors), in 8:03:44
2. Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates), s.t.
3. Danny van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo), at :04
4. Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott), in :06
5. Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe), in :06

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