Team News: Viviani wins stage 1 Down Under

Elia Viviani starts the season with a bang in Tour Down Under – The Italian Champion came out of nowhere in the chaotic stage 1 finale to take the win and the leader’s jersey

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Team News: Viviani wins stage 1 Down Under

Elia Viviani starts the season with a bang in Tour Down Under – The Italian Champion came out of nowhere in the chaotic stage 1 finale to take the win and the leader’s jersey

Photo: Tim De Waele / Getty Images

Four months after concluding the most successful season of his career with a perfectly-timed sprint in Madrid, Elia Viviani picked up where he had left off, scoring another victory – his 68th since turning pro – after producing a fantastic late burst which saw him blitz the Tour Down Under field in the last 150 meters of an opening stage held in extreme heat and windy conditions which prompted the organisers to take out the 3.4km finishing circuit.

“First win of the year for the team, first win for me, it’s a really great day for us. I felt a bit of pressure after the amazing season I had last year, but now I am more relaxed and already looking forward to the next opportunities I’ll get this week here in Australia”, Elia said after his masterclass sprint performance in Port Adelaide, host for the first time in history of a Tour Down Under stage.
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Deceuninck – Quick-Step were one of the teams who controlled the four-man breakaway which animated the 129km-long stage that rolled out from North Adelaide, with the likes of Rémi Cavagna, neo-pro Mikkel Honoré and James Knox, whose fair share of work at the head of the peloton helped keep the quartet on a leash before eventually reeling them in.

Two days after a crash took him out of contention in the closing kilometer of the Down Under Classic, the 29-year-old Viviani showed once again why he was the best sprinter of 2018, a combination of world class bike handling skills, huge confidence, crazy turn of speed and fearless sprinting, coupled with a solid lead-out provided by Michael Mørkøv and Fabio Sabatini, propelling him to a convincing victory in a scrappy finish.

Elia decided to leave it late in Port Adelaide, where the strong headwind played an important role in the outcome, and charged through the left of the peloton after finding an unreal gap, no wider than his handlebars. The Italian Champion’s daredevil move helped him power past Max Walscheid (Team Sunweb) and win stage 1 of the World Tour race by several bike lengths, claiming the ochre jersey in the process.

“We knew it was going to be a headwind, and this made for a difficult and chaotic sprint, but our plan was to wait a little bit before putting me in the best position. All the teams were committed and it wasn’t easy to find some space, but Michael and Saba did a great job, as always. Despite some guys having a few meters on me in the final, I didn’t panic and opened my sprint at the right moment. Once I found that space on the left of the barriers, I felt that I could win”, said the Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider, first Italian in 16 years to top the Tour Down Under general classification.

Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) (local favourite reaction): “During the stage, our team was well positioned. It was quite hot today but that didn’t influence the team performance. Thomas De Gendt and Carl Fredrik Hagen did a lot of work at the front of the peloton to keep the four escapees in check. Once the break was caught, still relatively early in the finale, we managed to stay up front. It was only in the final kilometres that we lost each other. As I wasn’t in an ideal position, I had to do a first sprint even before the final one. I once again tried to get into a good position but that didn’t succeed.”

“The headwind also played a major part at the end of the stage as the teams were afraid to get to the front too early. Everybody was looking at each other and all the lead-out trains were lined up side-to-side on the wide roads. Eventually, we lost the good position we fought for and I could not sprint head-to-head. Unfortunately not the result we had hoped for. Hopefully there will be another chance to sprint in Angaston tomorrow!”

Max Walscheid (Sunweb, 2nd): “It’s special to deliver directly in the first race of the season with a new, young team. There was headwind on the finish straight and I went pretty early, so my legs were pretty much dying in the last 50 metres. Viviani did great and came perfectly out of the gap, otherwise it looked like nobody else could follow. I’m really proud of how we worked together as a team today. The three Aussie climbers did well until Johannes took over with the link to my lead out with Max and Cees. Big compliments to a 21 and a 23 year old: in their first WorldTour race they deliver me on a world class level. I can’t wait to continue working with the guys like this.”

Patrick Bevin (CCC) “It was definitely our intention to go in the breakaway and pick up some bonus seconds. We talked about it yesterday and if they were going to let a group go away and I could sneak off the front and take some seconds, in a race that is often decided by count back or seconds, then why not take it. So we went out and took them and start the next five stages with a head start. I didn’t find the heat too bad. Up in the hills it wasn’t terrible and because we had a group that was working there was no big effort. We rode hard for a brief period and got a gap, then we went back and forward with the bunch, and when you’re taking water you are not really doing any big acceleration.”

“It was definitely a gamble. You can take five seconds today and lose two minutes in three days’ time. That’s bike racing. We are here to try and win it and to lie down and wait for Willunga, well I’m not going to win it. I’m going to have to fight for every single second and that started at kilometer zero today. I would be happy with a top-five result on the General Classification. I have been in the top ten here before and I think top five in a WorldTour GC is hard to come by.”

Jakub Mareczko (CCC, 3rd on stage): “The last kilometers were hard because all of the teams were trying to stay at the front. I stayed behind Ventoso, and behind me I had Sajnok, so we tried to stay in front with Owsian, all together. In the last corner, with a bit more than one kilometer to go, Ventoso was in front but I was a bit back so I found the wheel of Viviani when he passed on the left side of the road. I had to brake a bit as two riders in front of me stalled a bit so I preferred to pass on the right side. Viviani held on and I was able to get third place.”

“I am feeling good but the weather was very hot today. I hope it will be a bit cooler in the coming days. It definitely gives me confidence here and we want to take a stage win here. It’s not easy as there are many teams that are trying to stay in front, for the overall or for the stage, so we will keep trying day by day.”

Ryan Gibbons (Dimension Data, 5th): “It was a hot day out in Adelaide for today’s first stage of the Tour Down Under. It turned out to be a good day for us as I was able to mix it up in the sprint. Fifth today gives me confidence and I’ll be looking for a little more in the next sprint stages. I must say the team was great today, looking after me all stage. Closer to the final it was great to have the experience of Lars Bak guiding me into position for the sprint.”

Peter Sagan: My result wasn’t the best we would have liked but as I say, this is just the beginning of a very long season. I feel in good form and we have more stages ahead to fight.”

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Wednesday’s Novatech Stage 2

A shortened stage from Norwood to Angaston through the Adelaide Hills and Barossa will again test the riders, with maximum temperature of 40 degrees forecast. But it could be as high as 43 by the time the peloton regions the finish. This stage will see the return of the popular Checker Hill climb, and sprints in Birdwood and Springton. Fans can watch the descent into the Barossa Valley via Mengler Hill, which was used as the queen climb in the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under last Friday.

Novatech Stage 2 commences on The Parade, Norwood at 11:00am ACDT on Wednesday 16 January.

Stage 1

1 VIVIANI Elia DQT ITA B:10″ 00″
2 WALSCHEID Maximilian Richard SUN GER B:06″ ‘ ‘
3 *MARECZKO Jakub CPT ITA B:04″ ‘ ‘
7 *HALVORSEN Kristoffer SKY NOR ‘ ‘
8 SAGAN Peter BOH SVK ‘ ‘
11 IMPEY Daryl MTS RSA ‘ ‘
12 *BALLERINI Davide AST ITA ‘ ‘
13 MCLAY Daniel EF1 GBR ‘ ‘
15 *STRAKHOV Dmitrii TKA RUS ‘ ‘
16 *COSNEFROY Benoit ALM FRA ‘ ‘
17 HAAS Nathan TKA AUS ‘ ‘
18 ULISSI Diego UAD ITA ‘ ‘
19 *POGACAR Tadej UAD SLO ‘ ‘

British Riders

13. Dan McLay
42. Owain Doull
67. Luke Rowe

72. Alex Dowsett
107. James Knox
109. Scott Davies
119. Adam Blythe
120. Ryan Mullen


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