Elia Viviani couldn’t have asked for a better present on the day he turned 29, as the Quick-Step Floors rider combined physical presence, positioning, timing and speed – after a flawless display of his teammates – and sailed to his second victory of the season in Ras al Khaimah, holding off the late surge of race leader Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) and countryman Riccardo Minali (Astana).
“I was very motivated after yesterday’s disappointment. In Palm Jumeirah I felt that I lost a chance and was very frustrated, also because my teammates put in a huge amount of work and I let them down. I’m a pro since 2010 and people know that a defeat motivates me more than a victory, and this was the case also today. The feeling with the guys is incredible, it’s very special to be part of this team and I’m happy to get the victory here, which makes my birthday even more beautiful.”
One of the top contenders at the start of the 190km-long stage, Elia spent a quiet day in the bunch, except for a rear wheel change inside the last 25 kilometers. Despite losing around 40 seconds to the peloton, the 29-year-old kept his composure, and helped by three Quick-Step Floors teammates, returned to the main group, which soon after reeled in the last three breakaway riders.
Unlike Tuesday, the final kilometers of the stage were easier, but the pack was again very nervous, with the sprinters’ teams beginning to jostle for position with ten kilometers to go. Piloted by a strong Niki Terpstra, the Quick-Step Floors train took the left side of the road and navigated through the field to the front, with Elia Viviani – fourth wheel under the flamme rouge – relying once again before the sprint on an amazing Fabio Sabatini.
“The last kilometer was chaotic, but it’s always like that when you have the best sprinters in the world fighting for victory. The team made their presence felt, and with 500 meters left, Saba closed the gap to the riders in the front. Then, I got into the wheel of Kristoff and decided to sprint earlier than yesterday. It’s my best start of the season and I hope I won’t stop here. I know that I am second overall now, but I am not thinking of the general classification yet. The plan is to take it day by day and see what happens”, concluded Viviani after netting the team’s ninth stage victory at the Dubai Tour.