Elia Viviani left the 2019 Giro d’Italia route presentation torn between the desire to ride his home Grand Tour in the Italian national champion’s tricolore jersey and reach his home town of Verona on the final stage, or accept the challenge of being Quick-Step Floors' number one sprinter and so target the sprints at the Tour de France.
Viviani ended his contract with Team Sky a year early to transfer to Quick-Step Floors in 2018. He was hired as an alternative to Fernando Gaviria, but as the season unfolded he outshone his younger rival, winning 18 races, including four stages at the Giro d’Italia and three at the Vuelta a Espana. Viviani ended the season as the most victorious rider of 2018, acting as a cornerstone for Quick-Step Floors' new record of 73 season victories.
Gaviria has recently ended his contract with Quick-Step Floors for a better-paid, three-year contract with UAE Team Emirates, making Viviani the Belgian team’s best sprint option for 2019, with Alvaro Hodeg and Fabio Jakobsen his understudies.
Success and responsibility will force Viviani and Quick-Step Floors to choose between the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France.
“With Gaviria moving on, for sure there’s the space to think about the Tour de France, but with me racing in the Italian champion’s tricolore jersey, and with Verona hosting the final stage of the Giro d’Italia, it makes for a tough decision,” Viviani admitted after a quick look at the route map during the presentation.
“We’ll balance all the pros and cons with the team and then decide. I’m going home with lots of weights in favour of the Giro d’Italia; there are six sprint stages and that Verona finish. However, the Tour de France begins with a sprint finish in Brussels and we’re a Belgian team, so that makes the Tour de France tempting too.
“I’m not scared of doing two Grand Tours in a season. I did it this year, riding the Giro d’Italia and then the Vuelta a Espana and I won the Hamburg Classic in between as well.”
With the sprint opportunities all coming in the first half of the 2019 Giro d’Italia, Viviani and other big-name sprinters may be tempted to ride until stage 12 to Pinerolo and then bail out before the long series of mountain stages. Only stage 18 ends on the flat roads, but the sprinters and their teams will have to control all the breakaway attempts. The final time trial stage around Verona means there is no parade stage and no final sprint at the 2019 Giro d’Italia.
“All the sprints are also in the first half of the race when the sprinters are at their best, so we should see some great sprinting,” Viviani suggested.
“There are perhaps six opportunities for sprint finishes, and we might even have other chances on the hillier stages. Of course after the halfway point there are a lot of climbs to get over for whoever wants to reach Verona. I’d love to do that, but I’ve got to be realistic too.
“First of all, I’ll try to copy my season next year even if I know it might be impossible to do better, because it was amazing. For now, I know that the first part of my season should be similar to this year [starting with the Tour Down Under] and then we’ll decide on my biggest goal of the season.”