Elia Viviani takes bitter runner-up spot in Gent-Wevelgem
Quick-Step Floors returns to the top of the World Tour team classification after placing two riders in the top 10.
Cycling is a tough sport, more than what TV images let people discover. It's a sport made up of hard work, sacrifices, sweat, ups and downs and defeats, all elements that when are put together result in a victory which brings joy and glory. When this doesn't happen, it all turns into a hard pill to swallow which after the initial disappointment motivates the rider to start again from scratch and put the pieces of the puzzle together in pursuit of that much desired win.
Most recently, Elia Viviani was the one to find himself in this unwanted situation, after sprinting to second place at 80th edition of Gent-Wevelgem (250.8 kilometers), a race on which Quick-Step Floors left again their mark after upping the tempo on the last ascent of the Kemmelberg, the race's iconic climb, and splitting the field as four of our riders made the cut together with 15 other men, setting off in pursuit of the leading group, which at that point was more than a minute clear.
After reeling them in, Philippe Gilbert, Yves Lampaert and Zdenek Stybar dutifully marshaled the group and brought back every single attack, as they continued to increase the gap on the chasers. Even when some riders threw in a last-minute ditch, our team was there and responded immediately, making sure the race ended in a bunch sprint.
Boxed in with 250 meters to go, Viviani eventually found some space to squeeze himself between Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education) and the barriers and launched a devastating sprint, by far the most powerful of all the victory contenders, coming up short for half a bike as he let his anger come out before bursting into tears into one of the most emotional images this season's racing has produced.
Second behind Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe), Elia couldn't hide his huge disappointment and sadness after Sunday's result: "We were aggressive, we were focused at all times, we had four riders in the group and we controlled everything so it came down to a bunch. Philippe did some huge turns and tracked down the attacks, Yves brought me near the front, while Styby put me on Demare's wheel, of whom I knew I can surpass, but unfortunately I got a bit boxed in and lost two seconds when I came around Vanmarcke, and that turned out to be decisive, because afterwards it became impossible to gain those ten meters I lost."
"We were confident we could win, the guys were fantastic, and having missed on this opportunity makes me extremely sad. Gent-Wevelgem is one of my career goals, a race I've always dreamt of winning, so it was only natural to have that reaction after crossing the line in second. This is the most disappointing loss of my career and I cried at the finish because I knew I could have won. I really wanted the victory and I know it's a missed opportunity and I'm incredibly sad, but that's cycling. All I can do is continue working and believing", said Elia after his best ever result in a cobbled Classic, one which together with Zdenek Stybar's eighth place in Wevelgem helped Quick-Step Floors return to the top of the World Tour team classification after 11 of this season's 37 events.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images