The Italian took advantage of strong support at Quick-Step Floors to win 18 races, including stage 3 at the Tour Down Under, the overall classification at the Dubai Tour, four stages at the Giro d’Italia, the Hamburg Cyclassics race and three stages at the Vuelta a Espana.
Viviani topped the list of season victories in 2018, backing claims that he is the number one sprinter in the world. With Fernando Gaviria moving to UAE Team Emirates, he will be Deceuninck-Quick-Step's number one sprinter this year.
"I’d agree with that, even if I didn’t ride the Tour de France," Viviani said an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"At the Tour there was no dominant sprinter, they shared the wins. I’d say the others are chasing the success I had. I just hope that if things go well then I can stay at this level. I’m not obsessed about winning 18 races again in 2019. My goals will be a little different. I’ll be happy if I win 10 races, as long as they’re 10 ‘bigger’ races."
Viviani will turn 30 on February 7 and he feels he is close to his best.
"I feel I can win a major Classic and win a lot for the next two, three or even four years. I’m Italian champion and Olympic champion. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved and want to continue to be so," he said.
Viviani ended his 2018 road season early, after his three wins at the Vuelta a Espana. He raced on the track, competing in two World Cup rounds to secure qualification points for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and won the Gent Six Day, but was soon training for the new season and another intense early campaign of racing in Australia.
"I’m riding the Tour Down Under (January 15-20) and the opening criterium (Sunday Jan 13) and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race (Jan 27)," he confirmed.
"I’ll head home on January 29 and then ride the UAE Tour (February 24- March 3), Tirreno-Adriatico (March 13-19), Milan-San Remo (March 23), Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne (March 28) and Gent-Wevelgem (March 31). That’s my first block of racing."
Viviani will miss the Deceuninck-Quick-Step team presentation in Belgium later this week, where the team’s Grand Tour plans will be confirmed. He is expected to show off his Italian ‘tricolore’ jersey on home roads in May, with La Gazzetta dello Sport suggesting he will not ride the Tour de France because Enric Mas will be team leader and target the overall classification. Viviani is likely to ride the Vuelta a Espana to prepare for the World Championships in Yorkshire.
Gaviria becomes a sprint rival
Gaviria’s move to UAE Team Emirates means the Argentinean is now one of Viviani’s biggest rivals instead of being a teammate. Internal competition at Deceuninck-Quick-Step comes from young sprinters Alvaro Hodeg and Fabio Jakobsen, with vital support from lead-out men Fabio Sabatini and Maximiliano Richeze.
"When I found out that Gaviria had left, my first thought was that I’ve now got another rival to beat," Viviani admitted. "My second thought was that the team had explained there were budget problems and perhaps my success had helped the decision to ‘sacrifice’ him.
"After Sagan, Gaviria will be my biggest rivals. I’m sure Kittel will be competitive once again, while Groenewegen is perhaps under-estimated. The surprise could be Ackermann."
Viviani will probably clash with all of them and many others at Milan-San Remo. Last year he faded in the Via Roma sprint after Vincenzo Nibali attacked on the Poggio climb and finished a disappointed 19th. He is keen to improve on that in 2019.
"Milan-San Remo isn’t an obsession but I do think about it every time I ride my bike," Viviani said. "Last year I wasn’t the designated leader for Milan-San Remo and I suffered in the cold and rain at Paris-Nice. We tried to lead the chase of Nibali in the finale but that’s a big risk and I simply ran out of legs.
"Things will be different this year. In February, I’m going to work on my endurance by doing some seven-hour training rides because the World Championships is also close to 300km long. I’m also going to study the Milan-San Remo route carefully, from the Turchino onwards. I’ll also study the sprints form the last few editions of Milan-San Remo to learn how to get it right."