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MUSCAT, Oman (VN) — Elia Viviani (Cannondale) shifts his full focus to the road this year after a season aimed at the London Olympics.
“It’s going to be different this year,” Viviani told VeloNews. “I’ve relaxed and done quite a bit of work on the road.”
His path will take him on home roads through Italy this May. He is specifically eyeing the pink jersey on day one of the Giro d’Italia in Naples.
Early Saturday morning, he and several of his colleagues flew from Doha, Qatar, to Muscat to race the Tour of Oman. It is a more intense start to his season than last year.
“This year, I’m racing the Giro for the first time this year. For an Italian, it’s a big deal,” Viviani said. “My dream, for sure, is to win the stage in Naples and take the pink jersey. Given this year it starts off with a sprinters’ stage, I’m hoping for the best, a win right away.”
To be honest, it is hard for fans to imagine anyone but Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) winning the 156km stage around Naples. Cavendish cleaned house the last week in Qatar. He went home, but Viviani traveled to Muscat.
Sunday morning, he will train with his team, including Peter Sagan, who just arrived from Europe. Perhaps they will talk about Qatar and Viviani will express his doubts for the Giro.
The Italian was only able to manage fifth place in stage 1 in Qatar, and crashed in stage 3. He thought he had fractured a rib, but fortunately, he was able to recover and to keep racing towards the spring classics and that rose-colored dream.
“It’ll be an important year. Elia’s won some good races, but we are waiting for something more,” sport director Alberto Volpi told VeloNews.
“We don’t need wins, even though it’d be good for his sake. He deserves it and has the potential.”
Viviani’s palmarès are sprinkled with international wins. Since turning pro, he has won in Cuba, Turkey, the United States, China, Argentina and, of course, at home in Italy. Most of those wins were minor ones, maybe what Cavendish would have called “shit small wins” when referring to André Greipel’s palmarès in 2010.
It was not easy for Viviani to juggle the road and Olympics last year. He suffered a hairline hip fracture at the track world championships. In the Olympics in August, he placed sixth in the omnium. Still, he managed seven road wins.
“He needs to do well in important races, and that doesn’t mean winning, sometimes that just means getting close and making the step in the right direction,” Volpi said. “I think he can win a Giro stage and place well in Gent-Wevelgem, I think that’s what he expects, too.”
The classics and Giro teams will change this year. Cannondale saw stage-race star Vincenzo Nibali leave to join Astana. That leaves Viviani to divide some classics with Sagan and free for the Giro. Ivan Basso will race for the overall in the Giro, but Viviani will have more men than he would have had Nibali been in the same race, and on the same team.
The wins should come and more confidence will follow. The combination may help him battle Cavendish in Naples.
“If not Naples, then somewhere else in the Giro,” Viviani said. “I just got to get to the end in Brescia, which should allow me a few opportunities.”