• Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) just bests Fernando Gaviria (UAE) sealing victory on Stage 5 of the UAE tour in Khor Fakkan (Getty) (AFP)Source: AFP
Italian sprint champion Elia Viviani won Stage 5 of the UAE Tour yesterday as a frustrated Caleb Ewan got lost in what was a white wash of a finish by the coast in Khor Fakkan.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
1 Mar 2019 - 7:25 AM  UPDATED 1 Mar 2019 - 8:09 AM

Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) timed his run to the line perfectly, beating Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates), Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin), who sprinted almost twice for third, and Sam Bennett (Bora-hansgrohe).

Alexander Kristoff was again prominent at the front as he piloted Gaviria, but the pair were denied a repeat of their commanding Stage 2 victory, with Viviani finding a way around.

“We know it’s going to be a fast sprint and a fast sprint means that it’s not going to be a clear sprint like the first day,” Viviani said. “When I asked the guys to do a proper lead-out, [Fabio] Sabatini and [Michael] Morkov did a really amazing job so just Kristoff was with us.

“When I saw all these sprinters in one line, I had the feeling that the right side was my place. I had the feeling that I didn’t have time to jump everyone, but I saw the last 30m that I really was going faster. That was a really good photo for the finish, with five sprinters on the line. I’m really proud to win this sprint.”

Kittel, who is on the comeback from a rough first season with Katusha-Alpecin, compared the mass gallop to a “blender” following his acceleration to get to the front in the closing metres and then go for line honours.

“Elia just timed it perfectly. On the line when we passed the finish, I just looked to the right, I saw him passing us there. He came in the right moment, used our slipstream and that’s what you have to do in such a finish,” said Kittel.

“When Kristoff did the lead-out for Gaviria, I’d started my sprint already so it was very early. I had good legs, otherwise you cannot do that. I’m not disappointed, not at all. It’s something which also shows progression to us as a team.”

Katusha-Alpecin came to fore late comparative to rival teams, notably Ewan’s, that had clearly assembled at the front within roughly the last 15km.

“That’s the thing with timing, you have to come late and be in the right moment in front. It’s really hard to get that right on a finish like today, when everyone is basically in a big blender,” said Kittel. “Everyone is turning and coming again to the front, dropping back and it’s really, really difficult to keep the overview there. The easiest way is to come from the back, to see what is happening, and then in the right moment to start. But that takes a little bit of practice.”

Ewan (Lotto Soudal) had planned to try a different tact in the bunch sprint than that of his efforts on Stage 2, where he finished third. Then the Australian had opted against a traditional lead-out and instead surfed wheels with teammates Adam Blythe and Roger Kluge.

Lotto Soudal yesterday opted for a more traditional approach and were the first to prominently take control, amassing single file at the front of the bunch. Ewan appeared well protected and the train looked formidable but got swamped in the home straight.

“We were in a really good position the whole coast road, and then we were pretty much in perfect position until a bit less than a kilometre-and-a-half to go,” said Ewan. “We probably hesitated too much and just got swamped. I was in the mess and couldn’t really get out from there. Once riders start coming past with speed, it’s hard to get back out in the line to start the sprint. I was in the middle and couldn’t really do anything. It was a bit frustrating.”

The UAE Tour continues today with the queen stage to the Jebel Jais summit finish, which should decide the overall standings that Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) still leads.

“We will try to focus the best on our job, do it good and protect it on the last climb. It’s not really on us, we don’t really need to attack to make something on the climb. Others will, and I will try to follow,” Roglic said.