Viviani carries the flag for Quick-Step Floors in Tour Down Under
After two stages, the Italian sits in seventh overall, just 16 seconds behind the leader.
A sun-drenched stage awaited the riders on Wednesday morning, when they left Adelaide for the surrounding hills and Stirling, where the race returned after two years. Four men – Scott Bowden (UniSA), Jaime Castrillo (Movistar), William Clarke (EF Education First-Drapac) and Nicholas Dlamini (Dimension Data) – booked a place in the breakaway, managing to put at one point more than six minutes between them and the peloton.
The rolling terrain took its toll on the group, which fragmented and began losing time even before the bunch decided to ramp up the pace, and soon only Castrillo was left in the lead with over 50 kilometers to go, before eventually succumbing on the last lap of the leg-sapping Stirling circuit.
Sheltered by the likes of Michael Mørkøv and Dries Devenyns – who did an outstanding job in bringing him to the fore on the tough climb – Elia Viviani was again Quick-Step Floors' card in the Tour Down Under, aware he had a chance of scoring a good result despite the fact that the finish didn't suit him to the ground. As the peloton got whittled down to just 48 riders, the 28-year-old Italian was still there, but then, just as he was preparing to unleash his kick on the uphill drag, Elia got squeezed in and lost a tempo.
The Olympic Omnium Champion fought and made sure he got back in the mix in a battle that involved sprinters and puncheurs alike, finishing sixth, on the same time as Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott), who took the honours ahead of teammate Daryl Impey and Jay McCarthy (Bora-hansgrohe).
Rik Van Slycke – Quick-Step Floors' sports director – gave immediate thoughts after the race: "The plan was to go full gas with Elia, who was well-positioned as we rode under the flamme rouge thanks to a fine job by Michael and Dries. Unfortunately, the high pace in the closing meters turned out to be too much for him, as he told us right after the finish. You could see there was a difference today between the Australian riders, who already have some kilometers in their legs and are used with these hot temperatures, and the European ones. But the fact Elia was there and came again in the top ten is a good sign; the team has faith in him and we will try again in the next stages."
Photo credit: ©Sigfrid Eggers