Italian sprint star Elia Viviani wanted to finish off Deceuninck-Quick Step’s work and keep its string of wins going, but leaves Ghent-Wevelgem disappointed after being blocked and finishing 19th.
The Italian champion’s result comes one year after narrowly losing to Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) after the team had again worked for his sprint. This time, Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) came out on top in Wevelgem.
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“We can’t ask more than what they did today,” Viviani said. “[Zdeněk] Štybar and [Philippe] Gilbert did an amazing job. After Tim [Declercq] was in the front all day, he continued to pull for us.
“I can’t ask more from my guys. Sometimes you have space and luck, and it’s easy, sometimes you position well and in the end you are out the top 10. I’m disappointed for my team and after missing the chance from last year, two chances gone. It’s full disappointment.”
Last year, Viviani fell down in tears after missing his chance to win one of the few classics that suit a sprinter. It set off a string of wins for him, stages in the Giro d’Italia, the Italian Championship and stages in the Vuelta a España. But Ghent-Wevelgem remained out of reach for another year.
“I confirmed I can win this race again today, but everything needs to go in the right way,” he added. “The good thing, I’m in the best team to win this race. Maybe the third time can be the good one for me.”
The team won a string of one day races with Julian Alaphilippe in Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo, and Zdeněk Štybar in the E3 BinckBank Classic on Friday.
On Sunday, it appeared to be on the wrong foot. First Jumbo-Visma broke the race apart and saw to an 18-man move go free with only Deceuninck-Quick Step helper Tim Declercq in the move. They managed to see the race come back together, seeing the end of a move with Team Sky’s Luke Rowe and three-time winner Sagan, and push for a Viviani victory.
Gilbert and Štybar followed attacks and kept the group largely together for the flat roads from the Kemmelberg to the line in Wevelgem. But UAE Team Emirates with Kristoff and Fernando Gaviria worked the best in the final moments. Viviani refused to but the blame on Gaviria for how he worked, coming off in the last metres and closing the space, to help his team-mate.
“Every sprint has its own story and today’s story is a really sh*t story,” Viviani continued.
“I focused on Kristoff’s wheel because I saw he could be the strongest, from 5K to go I was just following him, and in the moment he went, Fernando came from the left and he just went on his wheel and stopped.
“Kristoff had a free way to go and I was there in the middle between Fernando and [Matej] Mohorič. I just stopped pedalling 200m to go. We know this is the risk, but after 250 kilometres everyone’s legs are like that and the luck or the good move is the winning one. And today was not our day.”
Viviani now takes a break now and will race again in the Tour de Romandie and Giro d’Italia before July, when he will make his debut in the Tour de France.