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Viviani hoping to strike track gold in London

Young Italian prepping for omnium bid before turning to career goal of winning Milan-San Remo

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Elia Viviani is heading down under next month for the world track cycling championships in what he hopes will be a stepping stone to an Olympic medal later this summer in London.

The Liquigas-Cannondale rider is one of the brightest of a new generation of Italian sprinters coming up through the ranks, but the chance to carry his country’s flag at the 2012 Olympic Games on the track is keeping him out of the northern classics this year.

Viviani is checking his road goals this year as part of an ambitious plan to target the omnium on the track in London.

“The world championships are very important and I am going not only to try to gain more experience, but to win a medal,” Viviani told VeloNews. “The worlds will see the best riders there and it will be an important confirmation for me in my progress on the track.”

The 24-year-old has plenty of track experience, winning scores of junior and U23 medals in national and European competition.

With his strong finishing kick, Viviani is a natural for such events as the madison, and the scratch and points races, but with each of those eliminated from the Olympic calendar, the omnium remains Viviani’s lone chance for Olympic glory.

Since turning pro on the road in 2010, the track has taken a backseat as Viviani has made steady progress in the mass sprints.

Last year, he won several big races, including the GP Costa della Etruschi and two stages at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. With a hot start to the 2012 season, VIviani has won stages at the Tour de San Luis as well as two stages and the overall at Reggio Calabria in Italy and defended his title at GP Costa della Etruschi.

Last week, he won a stage at the Coppi e Bartali stage race in Italy, but pulled the plug to prepare for the track worlds, set for April 4-8 in Australia.

“I will alternate between road and track this season,” Viviani said. “I want to get more experience in the omnium, so the world championships are very important. It will be an important test.”

Viviani returned to the track in February’s 2011-12 World Cup finale on the London Olympic boards and just missed a spot on the podium with fourth place.

He got a taste of who he will be going up against for gold in London, with Juan Esteban Arango of Colombia dominating competition and Canadian Zach Bell earning a well-deserved bronze in the multi-event competition.

“The Olympic track was impressive and it only increases my motivation,” Viviani continued. “It was my first track event in a while, so I was pleased to be close to the podium. It was a starting point for me to get ready for London. I will spend more time training on the track in the coming months.”

Viviani also might be racing on the Olympic road race team as well, but that decision will be in the hands of the Olympic national coaches. Right now, he’s qualified for the omnium spot and would love to ride for double-gold on the road as well.

“The road race course also suits me in London,” he said. “The main focus is the track, but if the opportunity is there to race the road, I would take the chance.”

Viviani’s long-term future lies with the road, but he’s putting those ambitions on hold for a chance to strike gold in London.

“This is perhaps my only chance to try to win a gold medal, so I am going to go for it 100 percent. I may not race the Giro this year, simply because I want to be perfectly prepared for the Olympics,” he said. “To win an Olympic gold medal would be like a dream.”

After London, Viviani will head back to the road, perhaps starting his first grand tour with the Vuelta a España in mid-August.

“The Olympics are my priority right now, but I want to become a top sprinter on the road,” he said. “My dream is to win Milan-San Remo, but that’s a few years down the road. I want to keep progressing as I have the past few seasons and see how far I can go.”