• Elia Viviani has been the most consistent sprinter so far this season. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Elia Viviani has inherited a formidable lead-out train at Quick-Step Floors, which helped deliver the Italian to his fifth victory of the season at the Abu Dhabi Tour.
23 Feb 2018 - 5:39 AM  UPDATED 23 Feb 2018 - 8:26 AM

Viviani best Danny van Poppel (LottoNL – Jumbo) and Pascal Ackermann (BORA-hansgrohe) in a bunch sprint at Yas Island after he was earlier gapped in crosswinds that animated the second stage.

The 29-year-old after only a couple of misfires at the Tour Down Under has seamlessly bonded with the train that has previously delivered Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) to victories.

Viviani joined Quick-Step this year after three seasons at Sky and has paired especially well with pilot Fabio Sabatini, who opted to stay and race for the Olympic track champion over following Kittel to Katusha.

“I feel really lucky. It’ such a different way to do the sprint. Sometimes you’re 40 positions behind but you know you have three guys who can do an acceleration almost like my sprint,” Viviani said post-race.

“The main point is you can do the sprint without any effort before. In the last few years, I always did some training to do more than one sprint in the last kilometre because that’s what I needed to do to get in a good position for the last kick. But now, I need to just focus staying on the wheel of Saba.”

Viviani also pointed to his commitment through the three races he has started this season, Down Under, the Dubai Tour and Abu Dhabi, in which he has rarely placed outside the top five or 10 of a sprint stage.

“In all the sprints I do, I never finish outside of the top five and that makes the difference. If in 10 sprints you have the chance to sprint always in top five minimum, in three or four of this you win. That is the way to take this really big result at the start of the season

Crosswinds along the seaside animated the 148km stage that split into echelons under the pressure of Katusha, Movistar and Andre Greipel’s Lotto Soudal team with about 44km remaining when the main break was also caught.

Viviani and overnight race leader Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) were among those caught unaware.

Mark Renshaw (Dimension Data), who finished 10th, was prominent in the front group before it came all together with about 18km remaining.

“It was just the general feeling of the bunch. I think everyone was happy to let it all come back in, it wasn’t a strong enough wind in the final,” he said.

“I enjoy coming here and racing, when we race. It’s not too good for the team, I think [Steve] Cummings lost a lot of time. I don’t know what happened. When everything exploded he was a few groups behind. It would have been nice to come to the finish just with those 20 or 30 riders but everything came back together.”

The last half of the stage was a turnaround from day one where the peloton almost idled until the last 4km.

“It was an easy start but then if you look at the finish, Greipel couldn’t get out of the seat in the final,” Renshaw said.

“There are guys that have got sore legs, including myself, so you can say it’s easy but it’s still hard racing. It depends on the wind, if it’s windy it’s hard and if it’s not windy it’s easy. That’s all there is to the desert.”

Greipel didn’t figure in the final, but teammate Adam Hansen hoped stage three today would be third time lucky for the German, who had earlier helped set the pace in the front group.

“It’s usually hectic here because this is so easy at the start and everyone is fresh and thinks they can win. We just need it a bit harder and, you know, there are a lot of young guys here, get them a bit tired and it will be a bit better for us,” Hansen said.

Viviani leads the race with one more sprint stage remaining before the time trial specialists and climbers get the green light to close out the race and vie for the overall title.