Elia Viviani is targeting the opening stage of the Tour de France in Brussels with the aim of pulling on the first race leader’s yellow jersey and cancelling out memories of a frustrating Giro d’Italia, where he failed to win a sprint and quit the race after stage 11.
Despite Viviani's lack of success in the Giro d’Italia sprints, Deceuninck-QuickStep team manager Patrick Lefevere has backed the Italian champion for the Tour de France sprints and promised he will have Maximiliano Richeze and Michael Mørkøv as part of his lead-out train. Both Deceuninck-QuickStep and Viviani want that prestigious opening sprint victory on stage 1 of the Tour de France.
"I’m dreaming about that win, about that jersey. It’d be amazing. I want it," Viviani told La Gazzetta dello Sport on Friday.
"It’d be the best way to make up for what so far hasn’t been as successful as I hoped. Whoever wins in Brussels could keep the yellow jersey for three or four days. Stage 2 is a team time trial and at Deceuninck we love those too."
Viviani won 18 races in 2018, in his first full season with the Belgian WorldTour team, including the Italian national title, EuroEyes Cyclassics Hamburg, four stages at the Giro d’Italia and three at the Vuelta a Espana. He won the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race early in 2019 but then faltered in the Classics.
At the Giro d’Italia he struggled to trust his Deceuninck-QuickStep teammates in the sprints, preferring to follow his rivals. He was first over the line in Orbetello on stage 3 but was relegated for moving off his line. He was beaten by Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) in other sprints and headed home after finishing fourth on stage 11 to Novi Ligure.
"This time I wasn’t on super form and to win I needed everything to work out. That didn’t happen," Viviani admitted in hindsight.
"I think everyone saw that the team was lacked something. We were a new unit and there was a chain reaction. Sabatini didn’t always trust Senechal because he’s not Mørkøv and so I lost faith in Saba. It was easy to see that we weren’t as good as last year.
"I was also affected by being relegated in the Orbetello sprint and that weighed on my mind. It wasn’t about losing the stage, it was losing out on a shot at the cyclamen points jersey that got to me. I considered my Giro was over but that was all my fault."
Confirmed with Deceuninck-QuickStep for 2020
Lefevere visited the Giro d’Italia during the final week and confirmed to Cyclingnews that Viviani has a place at Deceuninck-QuickStep beyond 2019, and he named him for the Tour de France team.
"Lefevere has said that he’s going to keep me and that’s a massive show of faith. He knows that joining his team changed my career," Viviani admitted.
"I’m looking forward to the Tour de France. I know I’ll have Richeze and Mørkøv and perhaps Lampaert, too, who can also be part of a train. There’s also Gilbert, Alaphilippe, who won't go for the GC and can help in the sprints. Mas will focus on that."
Viviani is currently training at altitude in Livigno, close to the Italian-Swiss border, only dropping down from the high mountains to ride two post-Giro d’Italia criteriums in Belluno and San Daniele. He will ride the Tour de Suisse on June 15-23, head back to altitude and then ride the Italian national championships before heading to Brussels to take aim at that first yellow jersey.