After four victories in the Giro d’Italia, for Viviani powering across the line in Alhaurin de la Torre was his fifth Grand Tour win of 2018, whilst for Quick-Step, after five wins in the Giro d’Italia and four in the Tour de France, this latest triumph put the Belgian squad into double figures in the three-week stage races.
Victory was anything but taken for granted by the Belgian quad, Viviani said afterwards, given that they had not been at all certain that the stage would end in a bunch sprint. He even argued that the hardest part of the victory for the team had been ensuring, on a day with 2,530 metres of vertical climbing, that the race stayed together. On a personal level, it was being sure that he could handle the hills of Spain as well as he knew - with victories as recent as in the Hamburg Cyclassics last Sunday - as he could handle the sprints.
“The hardest part was the racing beforehand,” the Italian National Champion said afterwards. “I knew that beforehand that when you come on the Vuelta you do a lot of climbing so I spent my time before the race in training camps, working on getting over the hills, not working on my sprints.”
The day’s climbing had proved so hard that there was no room for organised sprinting trains in the finale, which Viviani described simply as “chaotic.”
“Then when it came to the sprint itself, I said to Michael [Morkov] to go for it from 300 metres to go because I saw that nobody had a proper leadout. I told Michael to do sprint like he was racing for the win, and he did the perfect job. There was a little bit of a tailwind and I knew that if I went for it with 200 metres to go, I would get there fine.”
After four wins and two second places in the Giro d’Italia, Viviani has come to a Vuelta where there will - perhaps - be as many as six bunch sprints, two more than in the Vuelta last year. “The team say five or six, I say four or five, but today was one I doubted about and we won it.”
History is certainly on the Belgian team’s side, too, given they won six stages last year in the Vuelta a España, and all four mass sprints, thanks to Matteo Trentin. And as Viviani pointed out, “The good thing is that the pressure has dropped thanks to this early win so we can race more easily. This wonderful season continues…”