Team Sky’s haul of bunch sprint victories in 2014 amounted to just two successes for Ben Swift, which goes some way to explaining the signing of Elia Viviani and Andy Fenn. Although not among the top rank of sprinters, the Italian and the Briton will provide Sky with more punch in field sprints, especially given the lead-out potential both should be able to call on.
Winner of six races in his fifth and final season with Liquigas/Cannondale last year, Viviani, who will turn 26 in early February, is hoping the move will lead to a big Classics or grand tour stage success. “This is a big chance for me. This is the moment for me to take a big win and this is the perfect team to do that,” he said during Sky’s Majorca training camp.
“I am very motivated for this season and, on first impressions, this is the perfect team for me. Team Sky is not normally a sprint team but the mentality this year is changing. If we try for the sprints we can take pressure off the team if we can take some victories and stage wins,” explained the Italian, who has three WorldTour sprint victories to his credit, two at the Tour of Beijing and the other at the 2013 Critérium du Dauphiné.
“The team have a lot of expectations for me. A few times at Cannondale I took all the responsibility to get results in sprints and so I am happy to do that again,” said Viviani, a scratch and Madison specialist on the track who admits he doesn’t have the pure power to match the likes of Marcel Kittel and André Greipel on the road.
“I am about 500 watts down on them, but I aim to be ready with a good lead-out to make up for it,” he said. “We will work as team to arrive at 150 metres in the perfect position and hopefully that will help me beat sprinters like Kittel.”
Viviani pointed out that there is no shortage of talent in the Sky ranks when it comes to lead-outs. “We have some big riders for the sprint. If I think of the perfect train, I would have Geraint Thomas, Ben Swift, Bernie Eisel, Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe. That’s the perfect lead-out,” said the Italian with a smile.
Viviani’s first target in the Classics will be Gent-Wevelgem. “That’s the big focus of the first part of the year. It may be that all of those riders will be at Gent-Wevelgem and, if they are, I will have one of the strongest teams,” said Viviani, who will then turn his attention to his national tour.
“My priority will be a Giro d’Italia stage win. I have tried hard at the Giro in the last two years and have finished second a few times, but I hope this year I can finally get a win.”
Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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