Cofidis sprinter Elia Viviani heads to the Volta ao Algarve this week to seek his first win of the 2020 season. The race, held entirely around Portugal's south coast, features two possible opportunities to do so – first, on stage 1 to the coastal town of Lagos, and then on stage 3 in Tavira to the east.
Viviani, whose best results thus far in 2020 have been fourth on stage 1 of the Tour Down Under and third at last weekend's Clásica de Almería, faces competition from Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), among others.
But, despite his reputation as the fastest pure sprinter on the start list, the European champion still has to contend with a lead-out train that's still a work in progress. Getting caught up in a pileup on his second race day of the year didn't help things in Australia, either.
"It's good so far," Viviani told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 1 in Portimão. "We didn't have a very lucky start in Australia, but we're building up our lead out, our team, and like always when you join something new, you need some time to get in the perfect position.
"I think we're OK. We're here to try and take the first win of the season for me. We have two chances this week, including today. The shape is there and it's an important week towards the Classics, so we're pretty optimistic."
Viviani's lead-out train in Algarve includes two compatriots who joined him in the move to Cofidis during the off-season – Fabio Sabatini (from Deceuninck-QuickStep), and Simone Consonni (from UAE Team Emirates).
The trio have eight race days under their belt together so far, with Sabatini also joining Viviani in Almería. The Tuscan's relationship with Viviani dates back to their time together at Liquigas, and, as a teammate at Deceuninck-QuickStep during the last two seasons he was a vital part in Viviani taking 28 victories across the two seasons. Consonni, though, is a newcomer to the Viviani train.
"With Saba, sure. It's the same man of the last two years so with him everything is fine," said Viviani. "With Consonni we are still working, so it's not easy for him, jumping from doing sprint to the lead out. It's like if you ask me to do the lead out. We know he's super strong and that's a big point.
"He's a sprinter doing a lead-out for me so that's something we need to use in this season. It's not an automatic thing in the head so we're working on that, but for sure we know his value and he can make the difference in a lot of my wins."
Viviani is set to ride a full Classics campaign up to the Tour of Flanders this year, and with the first major goal of 2020 – Milan-San Remo – hoving into view after Tirreno-Adriatico next month, the available race days to perfect his lead-out are running out.
Plan A, as the new tattoo on Viviani's right forearm reads, would be to grab that vital first win in Algarve, either on stage 1, or at Friday's stage in Tavira.