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Road to Tokyo goes through Paris for Viviani

The Italian star believes he can juggle a full road racing season and still be in contention for an omnium defense.

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ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) — Elia Viviani dreams of an omnium repeat this summer in Tokyo, but the road back to the boards of the velodrome will go through Paris.

Four years ago this summer, Viviani beat pre-omnium favorites Fernando Gaviria and Mark Cavendish to strike gold on the track in Rio de Janeiro. Since then, the Italian has emerged as one of the most reliable sprinters in the bunch.

In 2020, with a high-profile move to Cofidis, Viviani confirmed his primary focus will remain on road racing with a calendar that will include the Tour de France in an Olympic year ahead of the Tokyo Games.

“It’s mainly the road,” he said of his 2020 calendar. “I am going to do my full season on the road. I will be on the track more than the last few years, and I will do a big training block on the track. I think we have a good plan and we have to follow it.”

Viviani, 31 next month, has already mapped out an ambitious season that includes the northern classics, the Giro d’Italia and the Tour, capped by a return to the velodrome for another shot at gold in the omnium in Tokyo.

Viviani — who debuts in his new Cofidis colors with a critérium Sunday afternoon ahead of Tuesday’s start of the six-day Santos Tour Down Under — says a few things are stacking up in his favor that will allow him to have a heavy road racing season and still allow him to tackle the Olympics.

First off, the omnium format has been changed from 2016, with less emphasis on time trial events and more balance toward endurance and speed. It’s also been reduced from a two-day event to having all of the medal rounds on one day. Viviani believes he won’t need as much specialized track preparation as he did in 2016.

And unlike the elite men road racers in Tokyo, who compete July 25 less than one week after the Tour de France concludes July 19, Viviani will have two weeks to recover and tweak his preparation before the omnium competition August 5.

“The new format of the omnium helps me a lot. If it’s the three time trial events like in Rio, and if you want to win that kind of omnium, you need to spend a lot of months to do the specific preparation,” he said. “The time from Paris to the Olympics is more than two weeks for the omnium. I’m always flying after a grand tour, so I am hoping that I use this grand tour form to try to repeat my final.”

Viviani’s approach to Tokyo is ideal as he makes a high-profile move to Cofidis. In the previous Olympic cycle in 2016, Viviani was with Sky, and could carve out plenty of time on his calendar for track-specific training. Because Sky’s primary focus was the Tour, Viviani had no expectations to race in July, and could put an early-season focus on the road before ramping up for Rio with more time on the boards.

He needed that track emphasis before Rio because the 2016 omnium included two days of competition with six events: scratch race, individual pursuit, elimination race, 1km time trial, a flying lap, and a point race. For 2020, the omnium is held on the same day with four events: scratch, elimination, tempo and points race. With the extra time after the Tour coupled with the streamlined omnium event, Viviani believes there’s a long enough runway to race all the way to Paris and still hit his stride in Tokyo.

Another plus? He already has one gold medal on his trophy shelf.

“The good thing compared to 2016, I am not stressed,” he said. “I have already won one gold, and if you ask me if I want to win one race this year, it’s the Olympics. It’s a goal that I have already achieved, but it’s a goal I want to repeat, absolutely.”

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