Elia Viviani is keen to forget his first season with Cofidis Solutions Credits after failing to win a single race, calling on the French team to back him and his sprint group in the hope they can bounce back in 2021.
Viviani joined Cofidis from Deceuninck-QuickStep after two hugely successful seasons than included four stage wins at the 2018 Giro d’Italia and a stage at the 2019 Tour de France, plus the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic, a second Hamburg EuroEyes Cyclassics and the European road race title with Italy.
He rode both the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia this year, but his best results were fourth in île d'Oléron at the Tour and fifth in Villafranca Tirrena at the Giro. While his replacement at Deceuninck-QuickStep Sam Bennett won two stages at the Tour, the green points classification and a stage at the Vuelta a España, Viviani ended the season with little to celebrate and lots of doubts on his mind.
“I won three races even when I was a neo-pro, so it’s natural to be disappointed,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport in a long interview as he tried to analyze what went wrong.
“I’ll admit I was never at my very best. Otherwise, despite the problems, I would have won at least once. I think it’s important to analyse everything that didn’t work out, starting from one bottom line: I thought it’d be easy to recreate a sprint group around me but it wasn’t.”
Viviani opted to leave Deceuninck-QuickStep and the Belgian team’s tried and tested lead-out unit when Cofidis offered him a far bigger contract. He took trusted veteran lead-out man Fabio Sabatini and fellow track rider Simone Consonni with him, and they joined forces with experienced Italian Directeur Sportif Roberto Damiani.
He made his debut for Cofidis at the Santos Tour Down Under but a high-speed stage 2 crash left him in pain and he never seemed to return to his best. Cofidis had to support Guillaume Martin at the Tour de France and give Christophe Laporte his chances, meaning that Sabatini was not selected for the Tour de France. Martin impressed at the Tour, finishing 11th overall, and he then won the mountains competition at the Vuelta a España.
Viviani kept trying in the sprints during the rescheduled season, but the lack of a strong and well-oiled lead-out train left him fighting in the wheels. He never threw in the towel or protested publicly, preferring to complete the season in subdued silence.
“I think we have to share the responsibility 50-50. I’m ready to accept my part,” Viviani said of the team selection problems at Cofidis that seemed to undermine his sprinting success.
“Things started to go wrong after the Tour Down Under in January, with continuous changes and with us chasing our tails. The Tour of Oman was cancelled so I went to the Volta ao Algarve. Then Tirreno-Adriatico was cancelled and so I rode Paris-Nice, but I was alone, without my sprint group.
“Not winning meant I lived the season without the confidence I needed. We couldn't find a specific reason for why things didn’t work out. But if you're not mentally focused in cycling then things get harder and harder.”
La Gazzetta dello Sport highlighted that the likes of Philippe Gilbert, Alejandro Valverde, Vincenzo Nibali, Geraint Thomas, Tom Dumoulin, Rigoberto Uran, Chris Froome, Romain Bardet, Mark Cavendish and Fabio Aru have all gone longer without a win than Viviani. Many of them suffered serious injuries or are in the final years of their career.
Viviani is 31 and so should still be close to his peak. He is convinced he can bounce back in 2021, which will also be an important year on the track as Viviani tries to win a second gold medal at the Olympic Games.
Viviani is not riding this week’s European Track Championships, but will soon kick-start his preparations for 2021 when he will again mix his road racing and track work in the hope it helps him to find a winning edge. He is convinced he can win again in 2021 if Cofidis give him the support and consistency he needs.
“You’ve got to learn from your mistakes, so you don’t make them again,” he said, again calling on Cofidis to back him 100 per cent.
“To create a good sprint group, you’ve got to always race together. Sabatini should have been a certainty, not a question mark. His role can’t be put in doubt because we work together. I’m sure Consonni will be even better too.”
Viviani was careful not to criticise his Cofidis team overtly, and he has a simple goal for 2021, convinced the team still has faith in him to deliver in the sprints.
“If it’s not there, then I go out and find it,” he said. “I don’t want another season like this one. A team’s trust develops via the results. We're all on the same wavelength and so we only have to make the right decisions.
“My goal for 2021 is plain and simple: to win. I’m not bothered which race, it can be any race we ride. I won't have any specific goals in 2021. I’ll start at my very best and stay there so I can be successful again.”
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