Viviani eyes up sprint finish at Tirreno on Friday

Italian road race champion thinks Gaviria could be the rider to beat

Tirreno-Adriatico can expect its first bunch sprint at this year's race when stage 3 finishes in Foligno on Friday, where Elia Viviani is hoping to take his fourth victory of the season, and his Deceuninck-QuickStep team's 17th.

While most of the world's best sprinters are currently racing in France at Paris-Nice, arguably the world's best sprinter is plying his trade in Italy – and Viviani is going to take every opportunity he gets to add to his and his team's win-tally.

"When there aren't many chances, you can't it mess up," he told reporters at Tirreno on Thursday. "You've got to get it right, and Friday is the first chance we've got, and we'll give it a go – even if we saw at the UAE Tour that Fernando Gaviria is the rider to beat."

The Italian road race champion is racing on home soil for the first time this season, but has already racked up wins in Australia at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and on a stage at the Tour Down Under, and in the Middle East with a stage at the UAE Tour, where rival – and former QuickStep teammate – Gaviria also took a win.

"You can never write off Peter Sagan [Bora-Hansgrohe], either," warned Viviani. "He's had some health problems, but he's always up there. Giacomo Nizzolo [Dimension Data] has had a good start to the season, too, winning a stage at the Tour of Oman, and can only get better after his knee problems. We've got to watch him and others.

"And we've got to be careful that our battle with Gaviria doesn't help someone else win," he added. "But it'd be great to go head-to-head with Gaviria in a really good sprint."

Deceuninck-QuickStep started Tirreno on Wednesday with fourth place in the team time trial, 37 seconds off winners Mitchelton-Scott, and with a team also boasting Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner Zdenek Stybar and Strade Bianche winner Julian Alaphilippe – who won stage 2 on Thursday.

"We're perhaps lucky that this year's Tirreno really suits us. If there'd been a big mountain-top finish, then perhaps Julian wouldn't have been able to think about the GC," said Viviani of the Frenchman's overall chances, with Alaphilippe heading into stage 3 with a 27-second deficit to current race leader Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott).

"This year, Julian can think about the GC, and so we'll keep trying to win as much as possible. We've got a great team," he continued, "with some great workers like Yves Lampaert, Kasper Asgreen, Michael Mørkøv and Max Richeze. That makes it easer for me, Julian and Zdenek to win.

"We can also adapt: Richeze and Mørkøv are my lead-out guys, but can also work in other situations, too."

With Viviani targeting Milan-San Remo, which comes just four days after the conclusion of Tirreno-Adriatico, on March 23, a first win in Italy this year would set the 30-year-old up nicely for La Classicissima.

"It's very important to try to win – first of all because I've never actually won a stage at Tireeno-Adriatico before, and I'd love to take one," Viviani said.

"Of course, winning a stage at Tirreno can't be compared to winning San Remo, but winning is good for your morale, and when you morale is good, things get even better, and you win even more. As they say, 'Success breeds success,'" he said.

Friday's third stage from Pomarance to Foligno is the longest stage of this year's race at 226km, and features a number of smaller muri, on which an early break could push clear. But it's a largely flat run-in to the finish, which should see the sprinters' teams and race leader Yates' Mitchelton-Scott team working together in the latter stages to ensure that it all comes back together for a bunch sprint.

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