What a difference a day makes in the high-octane world of sprinting. From winning the stage and taking the ochre leader's jersey on stage 1 of the Tour Down Under on Tuesday, to being out of the sprinting mix and losing the race lead on Wednesday, Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep) has had a mixed couple of days.
It could have been a lot worse. Despite everything, Viviani managed to avoid the crash that took down a number of riders just inside the final kilometre of stage 2.
However, having been caught out of position, the Italian road race champion was left with too much to do to take a second stage win out of two and defend his race lead from stage winner Paddy Bevin (CCC Team), whose 10-second win-bonus gave the New Zealander the leader's jersey.
"We knew that everything needed to go perfectly in order for us to try to win the stage, but we were never in a good position today," Viviani admitted. "We were always in trouble, and then the crash happened and, although we just missed it, I had to do a 'double sprint' to try to catch up.
"When I started my sprint, I was still thinking that maybe I could catch up, but my legs didn't agree. I think I was up to about fourth or fifth place, but I wasn't able to go again to go for the win. I think Bevin did an amazing sprint, beating some of the best sprinters, but, as I say, it wasn't an easy sprint today."
Viviani said that he didn't see the crash, which initially happened on the left-hand side of the road before spreading across the group.
"Although I missed the crash, and still had Dries [Devenyns] with me, that double effort that I had to make really prevented me from being able to try for the stage win."
While Viviani will now have to wait until Saturday's fifth stage for a crack at another sprint-stage win, the 29-year-old says that a number of his Deceuninck-Quick-Step teammates will now have their chance, while resting his lead-out train for the next couple of days.
"We're going to try to do something every day," Viviani said. "For tomorrow, we have guys like James Knox and Devenyns, and while they're hopefully up at the front, we'll try to let my lead-out guys save some energy, and try to be focused for stage 5.
"That stage has a fast finish, so it's a proper sprinters' finish, but it's still not an easy stage. It's going to be difficult to control, I think," he continued. "Because, with two climbs near the start, you never know who's going to get away in the breakaway.
"I can imagine a really strong guy in the break like, I don't know, Thomas De Gendt – a strong guy like him – in which case it wouldn't be easy to close the gap. But that's the Tour Down Under, and this year it's a lot harder than in previous years, so we're happy to have taken the stage win yesterday," said Viviani, who will wear the blue sprints jersey in Thursday's third stage from Lobethal to Uraidla.
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