Deceuninck-QuickStep produced the perfect demonstration of how to set up their sprinter for a bunch final in Chalons-sur-Saône, only to see the hard work they’d put in over six hours thwarted when Elia Viviani punctured as the peloton swept around the final turn 1,700 metres from the finish.
Although the Italian managed to contest the sprint, he had to settle for sixth place as Jumbo-Visma’s Dylan Groenewegen claimed victory.
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“I almost slid out on the last corner,” said Viviani, the winner of stage four in Nancy. “I had a soft puncture and my wheel was half flat. At that point there was nothing much that I could do but try to do something in the sprint and accept any result. I’m sorry for the guys because they did a great job. I can only congratulate Groenewegen because he produced a great sprint.”
Viviani explained that his team had got everything right until bad luck struck him at that key moment: “We’d planned to hit the front after the last turn. We did it a little later but it worked out perfectly because we went later in what was a hard, fast sprint after 200km of riding.”
“When I got out of the saddle everyone else was faster than me and I couldn’t do anything about it,” the 30-year-old added.
“I did what I could. You can only accept it when you puncture, it can happen to anyone. It was our turn today. There was nothing we could do. Now I’ve got to suffer on Saturday and Sunday and then hopefully there’s a chance for me on Monday in Albi.”
Deceuninck sports director Tom Steels admitted that his team’s performance throughout the stage did provide a little consolation for the late setback. “You don’t see a lead-out like that too often any more. Kasper [Asgreen] spent almost the whole stage on the front, then the lead-out was good again,” said Steels.
“Obviously Elia is disappointed. If you see all the work that’s been done all day and then that the lead-out is perfect, well…” he said with a shrug. “He still could have been beaten but he would have done a much better sprint. As a team, we have to be proud of how we’ve ridden. There’s nothing you can do about the puncture, but it is a pity.”