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Viviani aiming to rule the roost in Giro d'Italia sprints

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Elia Viviani wins stage 3 at Tirreno-Adriatico

Elia Viviani wins stage 3 at Tirreno-Adriatico (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Elia Viviani's new Italian champion's jersey

Elia Viviani's new Italian champion's jersey (Image credit: Deceuninck-QuickStep)
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Deceuninck-QuickStep's Elia Viviani was third at De Panne

Deceuninck-QuickStep's Elia Viviani was third at De Panne (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

More of the same, please. A year after he won four stages and the points jersey, that more or less sums up Elia Viviani's goals for the 2019 Giro d'Italia, albeit with some interesting differences.

12 months on and after a near faultless second half of last year's season, Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick Step) is now clad in the Italian National Champion's jersey, newly re-designed for the Giro d'Italia, and is, he says, "a lot less stressed than in 2018."

"Winning a stage in il tricolore [of national champion] is one of my goals," Viviani insisted, "though I've got plenty of objectives. I want to win as much as last year, if not more, even if there look to be even more competitors, but obviously, I hope I can do it. And if, on the other hand, I win one stage less, I won't be too stressed out."

Riding in the red, white and green of Italy's national champion is a big boost to his motivation, he said, both when going for stage wins and in general, particularly as his time in the jersey is set to be limited.

"I've just seen the route of next Italian nationals and it's not so good for me. So I wanted to honour it, for that reason. Then our team have a tradition of honouring national champions' jerseys a lot, and so that's what I really wanted, too, try to honour it as much as possible."

How often Viviani can actually honour the tricolore by raising his arms in the air on home soil this May is a moot point. In 2018 Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) - not present this year - was his stand-out rival in the Giro sprints, and he proved to be a formidable one at that, winning three stages to Viviani's four.

"There are at least five or six occasions, maybe seven for bunch sprints," Viviani argued. "We've split the team a little bit more" - Bob Jungels is Deceuninck-Quick Step's main GC man - "but my lead-out is really strong."

"Probably Caleb [Ewan - Lotto-Soudal) and [Arnaud] Demare (Groupama-FDJ) have full teams for the sprint, and that gives them an advantage, but the strongest rival will be Fernando [Gaviria, UAE Team Emirates]. In any case, I'm confident that with [Fabio] Sabatini and [Florian] Senechal, that I'll be well-supported."

Although there is likely to be a mass exodus of sprinters at the end of the first, much flatter, segment of the Giro, Viviani was insistent that he would not be part of them and that he very much wanted to continue the Giro through to the hopefully-none-too-bitter end.

"For sure when I start a Grand Tour I always want to end it," he pointed out. "The sprints are almost all in the first ten days" - there is one on stage 18 but the rest of the second half of the GIro is mountainous or time trials - "but the points jersey is a big motivation, and that's the main reason why I'd want to get to Verona."

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.