Viviani hopes to secure sprint jersey in Denver

Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) takes the victory in Steamboat Springs

Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) takes the victory in Steamboat Springs (Image credit: AFP Photo)

Italy's Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) is focused on solidifying the Smashburger sprint jersey at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge before the race concludes in Denver on Sunday. The 21-year-old moved closer to this goal after winning the stage 4 sprint in Steamboat Springs and is now leading the competition by six points.

"The stage victory was very important for the team because Cannondale is an important sponsor and it is from the USA," Viviani said. "The team is in a good period because we won the stage in the Vuelta [a Espana] yesterday and today we made another demonstration that Liquigas-Cannondale is very compact, good and one of the biggest teams in the whole world."

"After Ivan Basso was out of the general classification, the team supported me for the final three stages," Viviani said. "Today the whole team worked all day for my sprint and in the last kilometres, [Davide] Cimolai and Oss did a very good ride and perfect work for me."

Viviani picked up intermediate sprint points during the stage one road race from Salida to Mt Crested Butte. He started stage 4 with eight points, trailing sprint (and overall) classification leader Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) by nine points. His stage four victory was worth 15 points and he moved to the top of the sprint ranking with a total of 23 points heading into the final two stages.

"The jersey was very important," Viviani said. "In the first stage, with five kilometres to the finish, I sprinted for the points for the jersey. Tomorrow is also a good stage for [Daniel] Oss because the last part finishes on a climb and the last stage is good for me. Tomorrow I think we will work for [Daniel] Oss, and then I will defend the [sprint] jersey on the last stage."

Stage 5's 170.2km road race will begin in Steamboat Springs and end in Breckenridge, offering two intermediate sprints along the route. The stage six finale is a short 114.1km race that starts in Golden and concludes the overall stage race in Denver, offering one last chance for sprint points on the finish line.

Viviani is a well-known sprinter on the track having won the junior and under 23 European Championship scratch, points and madison races. Last year, he won the omnium title at his national championships. He is also a strong road sprinter, winning the GP Costa degli Etruschi, Tour de Mumbai, Coppa Citta di Stresa and a stage at the Tour of Turkey.

His focus is to earn a place on the Italian national team at the UCI Road World Championships held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in September and to qualify for the track omnium at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

"This month in the US, at Utah and Colorado, was important because next month is worlds," Viviani said. "For me, it will be a good experience to work with the Italian team. Maybe this victory will give me a place in Copenhagen."

"I think after this road season, I will go to three World Cups to qualify for the Olympics," he said. "Next year I will go to some bigger road races in the first three months and after I will do the omnium at the Olympics. The Olympics for the Italian team is very important. I hope I can medal."

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Kirsten Frattini