Viviani: Beating Kittel gives me confidence for the Giro d'Italia

Italian looking to build on last year's debut stage win among strong sprint field

Elia Viviani (Team Sky) enjoyed his most successful season as a professional last year, the crowning moment being his debut stage victory at the Giro d’Italia on the second day in Genova. Twelve months on, and back at his home Grand Tour for a fourth time, the 27-year-old is hungry to repeat the feat and even go one or more better.

“When you win a stage at the Giro d’Italia you understand what it’s all about,” Viviani told Cyclingnews in Apeldoorn on Wednesday ahead of the Dutch Grande Partenza. “After that, you just want to win again.”

There are, on paper, seven stages for the fast men at this year’s corsa rosa, and winning one – or two – is the priority for the Italian. Claiming the maglia rossa – the red points jersey – is an attractive prospect but remains a secondary ambition, especially given the role he must play for teammate and overall contender Mikel Landa.

“Sure the first focus is to win a stage, then we can see about trying to win more stages than last year,” said Viviani. “The maglia rossa is a good focus because last year I wore it for two weeks and I only lost it with four days to go. Sure I don’t have a train to do all the sprints, the intermediate sprints and finish sprints, so it’s not easy, but we’ll try.”

If Viviani admits it won’t be easy, he recognises his task becomes tougher still in light of the stellar sprint field that has descended on Holland for the start of this race. With the exception of Mark Cavendish, Fernando Gaviria, and perhaps Peter Sagan, the world's best are all at this Giro, including the likes of Marcel Kittel, André Greipel and rising star Caleb Ewan.

“There are seven sprint stages for sure, maybe eight, so a lot of sprinters think it’s a good opportunity to win a Grand Tour stage. That makes it a little bit more difficult than last year, sure,” admitted Viviani.

Having already beaten Kittel this year at the Three Days of De Panne in March, though, the Italian has no reason to be phased and, moreover, beating all the top names would only sweeten the taste of victory.

“After I won in De Panne in front of Kittel, you have the confidence, the belief that you can beat all the other sprinters.

“Sure, I need to be in a good position, and not have a battle to take my position, but when you’re confident about what you can do, it’s ok – it’s better. When there are a lot of sprinters, if you win, the victory means more.”

'Lucky' after Roubaix motorbike incident

Viviani’s plans for May were nearly thrown off track last month when a motorbike ploughed into the back of him on the Carrefour de l’Arbre sector of cobblestones during Paris-Roubaix.

He was taken to hospital with contusions on his chest and hip and immediately described how lucky he was to escape more serious injury. Three weeks on, he still considers himself fortunate – fortunate not just that his injuries were minor but that they haven’t harmed his form in any way.

“I’m very lucky after that crash. Luckily is all ok. I had one week of rest then I was back on the bike for Giro preparation,” he said.

“We did two weeks of really specific work for the sprints, because I didn’t do a lot of races in the first part of the season. So it was back to work on the specific side of things. We decided not to race before the Giro, to take a three-week block at home, rest a bit after the Classics, and prepare in the best way for this Giro.”

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