Elia Viviani will race on the track at the Gent Six Day with Belgium's Iljo Keisse this week but the Olympic omnium champion is determined to focus on his road racing in 2017, confirming that Milan-San Remo his big goal for the spring.
The Gent Six Day is the first time the Italian has competed on the boards since his emotional victory in Rio ahead of Mark Cavendish and Lasse Norman Hansen exactly three months ago. Viviani and Keisse will take on Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins and a strong field of 12 teams on the tight 166-metre track.
Viviani has enjoyed a short holiday with his partner and Italian road race champion Elena Cecchini since ending his 2016 season at the Abu Dhabi Tour. He is hoping his experience on the track will make up for any lack of fitness.
"It's the most famous of all the six days. There'll be some big name riders in action and it could be Wiggins' last race. It wasn't actually part of plans for the winter but I couldn't miss it. I haven't raced on the track since Rio, so it's going to be special," Viviani explained to Gazzetta dello Sport.
"I certainly don't have the form I had in Rio but for sure I feel rested. After the Abu Dhabi Tour I had eight days on holiday in the Maldives going from my room to the beach and back again. I slept 11 hours a day, my body totally switched off."
Focusing on road racing
Viviani has successfully juggled his track goals with his road racing career over the years, paying for success in one discipline with occasional disappointment in the other. However, his sacrifices and specialist training for the track paid off when he won the gold medal in the omnium in Rio.
The Verona-based rider could also ride the Rotterdam Six Day with Filippo Pozzato in the New Year and will be in action in the new Revolution Champions League in Manchester on November 25-26. His track bikes will then be stored away for a while as he fully focuses on road racing.
"I won't ride any track World Cups or the World Championships in 2017. For two years I'm going to focus on the road, where I want to be the Elia that I wasn't in 2016," he explained.
Viviani recently signed a new contract with Team Sky. He wants to show he can compete against the likes of Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, John Degenkolb and Alexander Kristoff in the sprints in 2017. He will be part of Team Sky's Classics squad that will soon begin to stack up the winter miles to lay down a strong base for the season ahead.
Milan-San Remo is a major goal, as are the Giro d'Italia sprints. The 100th edition of the Corsa Rosa begins in Sardinia with a sprint stage to Olbia. Viviani is determined to make up for finishing second to Cavendish in the sprint in Napoli in 2013 that saw the Manxman snatch the pink jersey from his grasp.
"On November 28 I'll start five weeks of really important training, building my strength and endurance. It'll be important not to have any problems or injuries because this a key moment that will shape my new season," he said.
"Milan-San Remo is my major goal of the season and that's what I'll be working towards during the winter. There's also the Giro d'Italia. The first stage could be a bunch sprint, so the pink jersey is something to aim for."