Elia Viviani already knew the drill when he joined Ineos Grenadiers at the start of last season. The general classification is the team’s raison d’être at most races on the calendar, and a sprinter must learn to adjust his expectations accordingly.
At QuickStep and Cofidis, Viviani enjoyed a steady diet of sprint opportunities. At Ineos, with the Grand Tours off the menu, he has to make do with altogether more meagre rations. The final weeks of the season, however, offered a chance for Viviani to sate his appetite.
After ending a one-year victory drought at the CRO Tour last month, the Italian notched up his first WorldTour victory since the 2019 EuroEyes Cyclassics Hamburg on Wednesday when he beat compatriot Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious) to win the opening stage of the Tour of Guangxi.
Rather than lament the limited opportunities that have fallen his way these past two years, Viviani preferred to highlight his underlying motivation for joining Ineos last winter. No other team in the WorldTour offered him the same prospects of toggling successfully between road and track. Viviani was a Team Sky rider when he became Olympic omnium champion in Rio in 2016, after all, and he returned to the British team with his eyes firmly on next summer’s Games in Paris.
“It’s hard, but I just want to think about how happy I’ll be in Paris next summer if I’ve got another medal around my neck,” Viviani told reporters as he leant against a barrier in the mixed zone in Beihai.
“The decision to come to Ineos was made in order to have the best possible support for the next Olympics. I needed to be in an environment that I knew, and I also knew I needed to be in an environment that worked for me. The options were to come back to QuickStep or to come back to Ineos. It didn’t materialise with QuickStep, so I came back to Ineos and I’m happy to be here.”
Even so, it would be remiss to suggest that Viviani has resigned himself completely to a minor role at Ineos between now and the Paris Olympics. This is a rider, after all, who has now clocked up 89 victories as a professional, including thirteen in Grand Tours. His wins here and in Croatia were a timely reminder of his finishing speed.
“It’s true that you have to wait for your opportunities or wait for the period where the whole team can ride for me, like they did here or in Croatia. But it’s also true that you need to give the team a sign so that they can believe in you,” Viviani said. “I…