GEELONG, Australia (VN) — A year ago, Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) was just emerging as a force in the sprinting world. Hot off his omnium Olympic medal in 2016 and a move to Quick-Step, the Italian was keen to prove his worth in sprints.
His 2018 campaign was a dream season in every sense, with 18 wins across the year from January to September. There were a few blots, and one of them was the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
Australia’s one-day classic ranks surprisingly high on the Italian’s wish-list. In fact, he said it’s one of five one-days he thinks he can realistically win in his career. On Sunday, he dashed to victory ahead of Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) to even the score a year after missing out with second.
“Always when I am asked about my amazing 2018, there are two second places I don’t like,” Viviani said. “This race and Gent-Wevelgem.”
Wevelgem was another race that didn’t fall his way last year, and he collapsed in tears after Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) pipped in Belgium last spring.
On Sunday, in a blustery, warm day in southern Australia, Viviani’s Deceuninck-Quick-Step tapped down would-be aggression throughout the 164-kilometer race. An early break didn’t present much of a true challenge and was duly reeled in before finishing circuits.
Three passages over the Challambra climb was the make-or-break point of the race. With just under 10km to go, it was the point where the likes of Michael Woods (EF Education First) or Luis León Sánchez (Astana) were hoping to upset the sprinters.
Brisk headwinds tamped down a string of adventurers, and a sprint was destined to conclude the race along Geelong’s waterfront.
Viviani’s would-be foil was local favorite Ewan, who was equally intent on winning the race. After being disqualified in a sprint victory last week at the Tour Down Under — a victory that Viviani said Ewan deserved — Ewan said he was boxed in on the final sprint.
Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) tried a long sprint to give the team its first win at the Evans race, but stalled as Viviani came to the fore. Ewan said he was stuck behind Impey.
“I couldn’t really start my sprint when I wanted to,” Ewan said. “Elia left if really late and actually it was a perfectly-timed sprint by him. It was a bit frustrating in the end that I couldn’t start the sprint when I wanted to.”
The victory was a boon to Viviani, who now turns his attention to the European spring classics. Gent-Wevelgem and Milano-Sanremo are the two main targets in the spring campaign before likely starts at the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France.
“We have the same feeling this week as we did to start our season last year,” Viviani said. “It will be difficult to match as many wins as last year, but what’s more important is not the number but how we work together. And this week, we were working very well.”
Viviani is now intent on winning the sprinter’s classic at Sanremo, and then settling another score from 2018 at Wevelgem.
The road to the spring classics went straight through Australia. He leaves the continent with two victories and his morale flying high.
“This is a perfect way to start the season,” Viviani said. “We are ready to start racing in Europe.”
|#||Rider Name (Team)||Result|
|1||Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick-Step)||3:54:35|
|2||Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal)||“|
|3||Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott)||“|
|4||Ryan Gibbons (Dimension Data)||“|
|5||Jens Debusschere (Katusha-Alpecin)||“|
|6||Luke Rowe (Team Sky)||“|
|7||Michael Mørkøv (Deceuninck-Quick-Step)||“|
|8||Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe)||“|
|9||Owain Doull (Team Sky)||“|
|10||Luis León Sanchez (Astana Pro Team)||“|