Elia Viviani (Team Sky) put the memories of recent high-speed crashes at Tirreno-Adriatico and Scheldeprijs behind him to win the first sprint of the Giro d'Italia in the centre of Genoa. The win made up for Team Sky's poor display in the opening team time trial and was extra sweet as it was the British squad's first win in a Grand Tour since 2013.
The Italian used his track skills to jump from wheel to wheel on the rising finishing straight and come past Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge), Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) and Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo) to in his first ever stage at the Giro d'Italia.
"I think I've been good enough to land a big win in the last few years but I'd always missed out. This win is my best since I turned pro. It took me time but I always believed I could do it," Viviani said in the post-stage press conference. "I had a good start to the season and I didn't win track titles by chance, I wanted to win at the Giro d'Italia, too and now I've done it."
Viviani took advantage of his Team Sky teammates protecting Riche Porte and then focused on his run to the line. His late surge proved to be decisive but he did it on instinct.
"I don't honestly know what gear I was in, your legs decide the gear you use, though I was probably in the 14 sprocket. On this finish it was important to jump from rider to rider and wait for the right moment. I saw Orica and Matthews and then I saw Greipel with Hofland go, but I didn't try to match them. I thought Hofland was a good wheel to follow after seeing how he won in [Tour of] Yorkshire."
Crashes are part of the job for a sprinter
Viviani was left battered and bruised after crashing in the sprint in Cascina at Tirreno-Adriatico after Mark Cavendish lost his chain. He also went down at high speed a few weeks later in Belgium.
"I'm not afraid to have a go in sprint. Crashing and taking risks are part of the job for a sprinter. When you crash you have to forget about it and move on," he said.
"I suffered and needed to recover but I did it. The Tirreno-Adriatico crash left me the worst off but the Scheldeprijs crash was worse because I really thought I'd broken something. I still had problems at the Tour de Romandie last week and suffered to recover and be on form for the Giro."
"To win sprints you needed the legs to win and nerves of steel, you have to be ready to lose if you want win, that makes a difference. Greipel was perhaps the strongest sprinter today but I was perhaps the smartest by choosing the right wheels and coming out at the right moment."
Viviani gave his stage winner flowers to his mum to celebrate Italian mother's day and became emotional as he remembered Franco Farronato, the local mechanic he grew up with and who inspired him during his career. All his family was at the finish in Genoa, giving him extra motivation. He will work for Porte during the hillier stages of the Giro d'Italia before taking a break and preparing for the end of season races and especially the world road race championships in Richmond.
"I was hoping to have a chance at Milan-San Remo but my crash stopped that. I hope to be a Classics contender one day. For sure I'm thinking about Richmond, I've heard about the route and spoken to Italian nation coach Davide Cassani. The Giro d'Italia is the only Grand Tour I'll ride this year but I plan on being fit for worlds by riding the Tour of Poland and the Eneco Tour."