Italian sprinter Elia Viviani took a valuable fifth place at the end of stage 1 of the Santos Tour Down Under, confirming his fourth place at the Cancer Council Classic on Sunday evening.
“I did a nice sprint on Sunday,” the Italian from Liquigas-Cannondale told Cyclingnews on the start line in Mawson Lakes. “Fabio Sabatini gave me a great lead-out. It’s a pity that the crash at 700 metres obliged us to start sprinting again. Robbie McEwen and myself managed to catch three of the five guys who had taken some advantage ahead of the crash but unfortunately not the last two from HTC.”
“However, I’m happy with my condition here”, he continued. “But we haven’t done long stages yet, so it remains to be seen where I’m at really.” Viviani was reported to have already shown good form at Liquigas’ December training camp in Sardinia.
“After the European track championships in November, I had twenty days of an absolute break,” he explained. “But I’ve planned everything to start the new season strongly.”
Viviani, who will turn 22 next month, had also finished his first pro season on a high note last year by winning the Memorial Marco Pantani and the Memorial Frank Vandenbroucke back to back. In April, when he rode for Liquigas for the first time, he won stage 7 of the Tour of Turkey in Antalya at the end of a bunch gallop marred by a few accidents and incidents. He showed that day that he possesses the agility that comes from his track background.
Not that Viviani is a former track rider. He keeps riding in velodromes despite having a bright future on the road. “In February I’ll do the World Cup in Manchester and the world championships in Holland in March,” he said. “It’s important to qualify for the London Olympics in 2012.” He was a multiple European champion for scratch, points race and Madison as a junior and U23 rider. He has now switched to the omnium, which has become an Olympic event.
“It’s also important for me to begin the road season with good results,” Viviani said. “I want to get confidence from my team and compete with great motivation against the world’s best sprinters who are here this week. This is not the pre-season. There are points to collect. Many teams and riders are already going well.
“In February I’ll also ride in Donoratico and the two one-day races in India but my participation in the classics might depend on how well I do here in Australia. I’ll also go back to the Tour of Turkey with high ambitions at the end of April.”