Italian sprinter recovers from being caught in the second group to win stage and take race lead
Crosswinds split the race into multiple groups with 50km to go, with Viviani caught in a second group alongside then-race leader Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) which at one point was nearly 40 seconds behind a front group including Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) and Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin).
However with 25km remaining the roads changed direction and the pace slackened, allowing the front three groups to come back together and set up the expected bunch sprint at Yas Beach.
From the Quick-Step Floors did a good job to keep their powder dry, with James Knox setting the pace, before the rest of the team came to the front at the perfect time with a kilometres to go.
Fabio Sabatini was Viviani’s final lead-out man, leaving the Italian to come out of the wheels and sprint around Danny Van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) to win the stage and also move into the overall lead as Kristoff finished in seventh place.
How it happened
After the monotony of the opening stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour, stage two saw plenty of action with crosswinds ripping the race to pieces in the latter stages.
However the early stages followed a familiar pattern with five riders, Joey Rosskopf (BMC Racing), Jaco Venter (Dimension Data), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani CSF), Alexander Porsev (Gazprom-RusVelo), and Charles Planet (Novo Nordisk) escaping in the first few kilometres.
That quintet enjoyed a maximum lead of only a few minutes, but that was quickly slashed with just under 50km to go as the peloton hit a section of road with crosswinds and was split to pieces.
Marcel Kittel’s Katusha-Alpecin team were largely responsible for the upping in pace, with a group of around 25 riders able to open a gap, while race leader Alexander Kristoff was among those caught behind.
Caleb Ewan and André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) were among those in the front group, as well as overall contenders such as Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates), and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), while Kristoff was left without team-mates in the second group which was struggling to close the gap to less than 30 seconds.
However with 25km to go the gap slowly began to come down as the road changed direction and the impetus went out of the front group, allowing the Kristoff group to regain contact with the front of the race with 15km remaining.
With the race back together it was up to James Knox to lead the bunch to the five kilometres to go mark, at which point the sprint lead-out trains really started to form in earnest with Katusha-Alpecin on the right of the road and LottoNL-Jumbo, Quick-Step Floors, and Team Sky on the left.
In the end it was the left-hand side of the road that prevailed, with Julian Alaphilippe leading Quick-Step Floors under the flamme rouge.
From there Viviani was in a good position on Van Poppel’s wheel, and opened his sprint on the left-hand side of the road, coming around Van Poppel and Pasal Ackermann to win the stage.
The Abu Dhabi Tour continues on Friday with a 133km stage between Nation Towers and Big Flag.
Abu Dhabi Tour 2018, stage two: Yas Mall to Yas Beach, 154km
1. Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors, in 3-15-30
2. Danny van Poppel (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
3. Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
4. Kristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) Team Sky
5. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
6. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Team Sunweb
7. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
8. Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
9. Rudy Barbier (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
10. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Dimension Data, all at same time
General classification after stage two
1. Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors, in 8-03-44 8:03:44
2. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates, at same time
3. Danny van Poppel (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 4 secs
4. Andrea Guardini (Ita) Bardiani CSF, at same time
5. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at 6 secs
6. Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at same time
7. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team, at 7 secs
8. Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo
9. Alessandro Tonelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF, at same time
10. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Dimension Data, at 8 secs