Italian sprinter Elia Viviani continued his fine form in the UAE by winning Stage 2 of the Abu Dhabi Tour on Thursday to move to the top of the general classification standings.
The Quick-Step Floors rider clinched the 148-kilometre stage from Yas Island to Yas Beach in another bunch finish to take the overall lead. Viviani is tied on time with Stage 1 winner Alexander Kristoff of UAE Team Emirates.
Danny van Poppel, the Dutch rider from LottoNL-Jumbo, was second followed by German Pascal Ackermann of Bora-hansgrohe, Norwegian Kristoffer Halvorsen of Team Sky and Australian Mitchelton-Scott rider Caleb Ewan.
Viviani, 29, completed the stage in three hours, 15 minutes and 30 seconds with the top 10, including Kristoff in seventh, clocking the same time.
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Victory in Abu Dhabi on Thursday adds to Viviani’s recent success in the UAE following his overall victory at the Dubai Tour earlier this month.
“We were ready to be the first team to create echelons, we did it 5km before and it came back together,” Viviani said following his second stage victory.
“When Lotto and Movistar went for it, we missed the moment. We were relaxed at the wrong time. They opened the gap. I told my teammates to wait for me, not the GC riders but my lead-out train.
“Alexander Kristoff and other sprinters were with me, so we could close the gap. We knew the last part of the race was with a headwind.
“I feel lucky to have Quick-Step for leading me out: three guys are able to accelerate at the same speed I sprint.
“Now I just have to stay focused on Fabio Sabatini’s wheel. He knows when to make an effort. He’s the best lead-out man in the world.
“He’s a different Saba than the teammate I had at Liquigas before. With Max Richeze, we actually have the two best lead out men in the world, not just one.”
Van Poppel, 24, was all praise for the stage winner and complemented Viviani as the fastest sprinter at the moment.
“It’s not a shame to be second to him,” said the Dutchman, who will wear the white jersey for Best Young Rider during Friday’s third stage. “But I’m disappointed because the team did a great job and I really wanted to finish it off.
“In the echelons, I was confident that our front group would make it because there were a lot of GC guys taking turns and I thought I had a big chance to win because Elia wasn’t up there.
“They came across but it was nice to be part of a hard race. It’ll be hard to defend the best young rider position because of the uphill finish on the last day but it’ll be nice to race in the white jersey tomorrow.”
Kristoff conceded he didn’t have the same power that took him first past the finishing line previous day.
“There were other guys passing me and Viviani was very fast, but I was happy to fight for a good position today,” the Norwegian European champion said.
“The team put me in a positive position and I was in the mix with the other riders. We have another race tomorrow to try and grab a win in what should be a good day for the sprinters.”
The riders now gear up for Stage 3, setting off from Nation Towers and taking in the entire island of Abu Dhabi, before returning for what should be another thrilling bunch sprint finish at the Big Flag at the tip of the breakwater.
Second stage results:
1. Elia Viviani (ITA) 3hrs 15min 30sec
2. Danny van Poppel (NLD) s.t.
3. Pascal Ackermann (GER) s.t.
4. Kristoffer Halvorsen (NOR) s.t.
5. Caleb Ewan (AUS) s.t.
6. Phil Bauhaus (GER) s.t.
7. Alexander Kristoff (NOR) s.t.
8. Niccolo Bonifazzio (ITA) s.t.
9. Rudy Barbier (FRA) s.t.
10. Mark Renshaw (AUS) s.t.
General Classification after second stage:
1. Elia Viviani (ITA) 8:03:44
2. Alexander Kristoff (NOR) s.t.
3. Danny van Poppel (NLD) + 0.04
4. Andrea Guardini (ITA) + 0.04
5. Caleb Ewan (AUS) + 0.06
6. Pascal Ackermann (GER) s.t.
7. Alejandro Valverde (SPA) + 0.07
8. Tom Skujins (LET) s.t.
9. Alessandro Tonelli (ITA) s.t.
10. Mark Renshaw (AUS) + 0.08
Red Jersey for general individual classification by time: Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors)
Green Jersey for General individual classification by points: Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors)
White Jersey for Best Young Rider born after 1 January 1993: Danny van Poppel (Team Lotto NL - Jumbo)
Black Jersey for Intermediate Sprint Jersey Classification: Nikolay Trusov (Gazprom - Rusvelo)