Ras Al Khaimah: Olympic champion Elia Viviani of Quick-Step Floors overcame all odds to hand himself a perfect birthday gift when he outsprinted overnight leader Dylan Groenewegen to win Stage Two of the 2018 Dubai Tour in the heart of Ras Al Khaimah on Wednesday.
A versatile rider with major successes on the track and road, Viviani displayed poise and guts to mark his 29th birthday with a 51st career stage victory as he recovered from a flat tyre towards the end to power himself past a host of top sprinters from across the world at the finish line.
That final burst saw the Italian finish ahead of the more established names such as Mark Cavendish (fourth place), John Degenkolb (fifth) and the home team’s Alexander Kristoff (seventh).
Quick-Step Floors rider Elia Viviani of Italy celebrates on the podium. AFP
Although Viviani took the stage win, it was 24-year-old Groenewegen who cornered the spotlight by making three visits to the podium on the evening to pick up the jerseys for being placed at the top of the standings in general classification by time and points and the white jersey for being the best young rider.
“This is the best cycling birthday present I’ve ever had. My motivation came also from losing yesterday [Tuesday], which increased my desire. I can enjoy the lead out I get at Quick-Step. I felt sorry for my teammates yesterday because the loss was my fault. I made a wrong choice. I feel that I’m in the best three years of my career. I’m not a phenomenon. I have to work to challenge the best sprinters and I have no excuse anymore,” Viviani told media.
Groenewegen, the Dutch race leader, was left disappointed. “I am a little bit disappointed because of a mechanical fault that made me lose my train. But everything remains possible for me in the Dubai Tour. I’ll try to win the GC [General Classification],” he promised.
Winner of the Omnium gold at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, Viviani was content to be hustled behind two-time defending champion Marcel Kittel’s Katusha Alpecin through most of the 190km Ras Al Khaimah Stage. Wednesday’s win also marked a Dubai Tour hat-trick for Viviani as the Italian rider — who turned pro in 2010 - had claimed the same stage in 2015 and 2016.
Last year, Viviani was in good form as well while notching victories in the Bretagne Classic — Ouest-France and the Cyclassics Hamburg. The Stage Two win was Viviani’s second success for the 2018 season following his win in the third stage of last week’s Santos Tour Down Under.
“The feeling with the team is super. Nine times out of ten, they deliver me in perfect position. Before, I had to jump from wheel to wheel. It’s the best start of a season I’ve ever had although I’m two kilograms overweight compared to my best form. I still have some work to do before the big classics, including Milano-Sanremo but I feel great,” he added.
There was just reward for all the early hard work from local rider Yousuf Mirza after the UAE Team Emirates cyclist was placed third behind BMC Racing’s Nathan Van Hooydonck [12pts] and Team Novo Nordisk’s Charles Planet [8pts] in the classification for the Intermediate Sprint Jersey — the UAE Flag jersey, sponsored by Dubai Health Authority (DHA).
Thursday’s Stage Three — called the Dubai Silicon Oasis Stage over 180km — will be flagged off at 11.05 am from Skydive Dubai. The route will run across the stretch of desert between Dubai and Fujairah while crossing through parts of Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah before ending on the Fujairah Corniche.
Top-10 Individual Classification on Stage Two: 1. Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) 4hrs, 34.31secs; 2. Dylan Groenewegen (Team Lotto NL - Jumbo) 4:34.31; 3. Ricardo Minali (Astana Pro Team) 4:34.31; 4. Mark Cavendish (Team Dimension Data) 4:34.31; 5. John Degenkolb (Trek Segafredo) 4:34.31; 6. Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana Pro Team) 4:34.31; 7. Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) 4:34.31; 8. Jean-Pierre Drucker (BMC Racing Team) 4:34.31; 9. Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) 4:34.31; 10. Adam Blythe (Aqua Blue Sport) 4:34.31.
Blue Jersey - sponsored by Commercial Bank of Dubai - (for General Classification by time): 1. Dylan Groenewegen (Team Lotto NL - Jumbo) 8hrs, 25.50mins; 2. Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) 8:25.52; 3. Nathan Van Hooydonck (BMC Racing) 8:25.59; 4. Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana Pro Team) 8:26.00; 5. Ricardo Minali (Astana Pro Team) 8:26.02.
White Jersey - sponsored by Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) - (for Best Young Rider): 1. Dylan Groenewegen (Team Lotto NL - Jumbo) 8hrs, 25.50secs; 2. Nathan Van Hooydonck (BMC Racing) 8:25.59; 3. Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana Pro Team) 8:26.00.
Red Jersey - sponsored by Emirates - (for General Classification by Points): 1. Dylan Groenewegen (Team Lotto NL - Jumbo) 41pts; 2. Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) 36; 3. Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana Pro Team).
UAE Flag Jersey - sponsored by Dubai Health Authority (DHA) - (for Intermediate Sprint Jersey Classification): 1. Nathan Van Hooydonck (BMC Racing) 12pts; 2. Charles Planet (Team Novo Nordisk) 8pts; 3. Yousuf Mirza Al Hammadi (UAE Team Emirates) 7pts.