Elia Viviani (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) climbed off before the reduced start of stage three of the Tour de Romandie 2019, after suffering from the flu in recent days.
The decision was taken as a precaution ahead of his Giro d’Italia campaign, with the race starting on May 11 in Bologna.
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After quitting the race, the Italian said: “I’ve had a small flu for a few days and kept going because this race was an important step to do for my big goal, the Giro.
“I’m happy with the shape I have and I just needed to add a few recovery days before the Giro.”
After taking four stage wins and the points classification in last year’s race, Viviani returns with the tricolour jersey of the Italian road race champion, taking the win in a sprint from Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain-Merida) last June.
Should Viviani be able to repeat his Giro accomplishments in 2019, he’ll be the first Italian champion to win a stage since Vincenzo Nibali took stage 19 in 2016.
It’s the first time Viviani has worn the tricolour, having never won the title at any level, not even the under 23s or juniors, and so despite the multiple Giro wins the 30-year-old says it’s “probably the best win of last year for me”.
Despite taking a while to finally claim his national road race title, Viviani says he’s claimed it at “the best moment of my career”, following it up with three stage wins at the Vuelta a Espana, the Cyclassics Hamburg, the Great Ocean Road Race, as well as stages in the Tour Down Under, Dubai Tour and Tirreno-Adriatico.
It’s by winning that Viviani believes he can best honour the jersey, saying “there’s nothing better than to have as many pictures as possible of me with my hands up in this jersey,” and it’s his home Grand Tour that Viviani thinks he can add more pictures to this particularly niche photo album: “I think something special can happen at the Giro with this jersey, for sure.
“We have a strong team, it’s a machine, because every race we have helpers and we have leaders, and sometimes, that helper is a champion.”
Viviani is referring to the number of national champions the Deceuninck – Quick-Step roster holds, with Max Richeze’s recent win in Argentina making it five. Alongside Viviani and Richeze, Yves Lampaert holds the Belgian title, Michael Mørkøv the Danish, and Bob Jungels has been the Luxembourg champion since 2015.
The team Deceuninck – Quick-Step bring to the Giro will undoubtedly be strong, with the team already achieving an astonishing amount of success in the spring Classics, but Viviani’s rivals will provide fierce competition.
Caleb Ewan is looking to make the most of his first Grand Tour with a team more willing to support his quest for Grand Tour stage wins with Lotto-Soudal, and Fernando Gaviria will lead UAE Team Emirates.
Viviani remains confident, though, both in himself and his team: “Everyday we go down off this bus with a plan. A plan to win.”