Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) may have botched the finish on stage 3 of the Tour Down Under, but it takes nothing away from Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors); his win in Port Harbour was one of his finest sprint displays.
The Italian not only timed his late run to the line to perfection, but had the nous to pick his line expertly through the final set of corners, before coming over the top of a shell-shocked Ewan, who eventually faded to third.
In just 200 meters Viviani justified his place at the head of Quick-Step’s sprint train in Australia and ratified his own decision to leave Team Sky, despite having a year left to run on his contract at the British team.
"It wasn’t easy for me to leave a team like Sky. When I went there I really thought that it was the team of my life but, after the Olympic Games, something changed," Viviani said after his victory.
"My goals were on the road and to win stages at the Giro, at the Tour, and the Vuelta. When I saw the chance to move to Quick-Step, there weren’t many teams that I could leave Sky for. I really needed to take this chance."
Viviani’s switch has been well documented but, as he told Cyclingnews in an exclusive interview earlier this week, he could not pass up the chance of joining the Quick-Step train. Not only do the Belgian team put far more emphasis on one-day racing than Sky, but they also had a ready-made lead-out in place after the departure of Marcel Kittel to Katusha.
In every interview Viviani has conducted since his move, the Kittel question has been raised. Today was no different. The Italian stressed that he and Kittel had many differences but once again added that the Kittel lead-out train of old needed time to gel around their new finisher.
"I’m a different rider to Marcel and I’ve told my guys that they don’t have the best sprinter in the world on their wheels, but if we do it together as a team then that’s the advantage we have at Quick-Step," he said.
"We’re really determined as a group, and I’m really proud of the team. Sometimes if you saw Kittel at the Tour he had more power and if you made a mistake he would get 50m. Today, we made no mistakes and we’ve won. He has more power than me, but I don’t want to focus on him.
"Right from the Criterium, we knew that we could win a stage. That was the goal we had this week. I had a good winter and wanted to start the season well. We just needed two or three days to understand the lead-out, and have good feelings with my teammates. We were really determined, and I think it was a good sign for me in Stirling and finally today we got this win."
With his first win in the blue of Quick-Step Floors now under his belt, Viviani can perhaps put the Sky and Kittel talk to bed and concentrate on what he does best – winning big bike races and doing it in style.
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