Elia Viviani validated his decision to leave Team Sky, claiming his first scalp of the season for new team Quick-Step Floors at the Tour Down Under with a sensational sprint in oppressive heat on Thursday.
The Italian made up seven bike lengths in the closing metres of the technical finish to take line honours ahead of Phil Bauhaus (Team Sunweb) and Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott).
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“At the roundabout at two kilometres to go the guys lost each other a little bit and then we only had [Michael] Morkov and Saba [Fabio Sabatini], they did a perfect job to bring him into the last corner about sixth or seventh position, which was also the plan,” Quick-Step Floors sports director Rik Van Slycke said.
“If you see the sprint today I think it’s no discussion, he came from behind and left two bike [lengths] behind so today he made the fastest sprint.”
Viviani joined Quick-Step this season with the promise of returning to the Grand Tours, which he got edged out of at Sky with its primary focus on overall results.
The Rio Olympic omnium gold medalist has been a quick study at the new stable, which has a plan for him that is not perfected but already coming together.
“From the [prelude] criterium we understood we could win a stage and that’s the goal we had this week. We just needed two or three days to understand how we needed to do the lead-out and have a good feeling with all the teammates,” Viviani said.
The sprinter marked 10 victories at Sky in 2017, which his new teammates have tipped will escalate this year due to the bolstered support he has, and will receive.
“My goal is to win stages at the Giro, the Tour de France, Vuelta, or every race I go. When I saw this chance to move to Quick-Step, I think it’s not any other team I can leave Sky for. I really need to take this chance, it’s important and I think in the best moment of my life. I’m 28 years old so it’s the moment to take the best results now,” he said.
Viviani was in the mix but not on the mark at the prelude criterium and stage one earlier this week, where timing as well as the speed of new chief pilot Sabatini, accustomed to piloting Marcel Kittel, weren’t right.
It clicked in stage three, however, spoiling race leader Ewan’s party.
Viviani is set to compete at the Giro d’Italia this season with Quick-Step likely to take Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria to the Tour de France.
“We are really determined, I’m really proud of my team,” he said.