Elia Viviani is hoping to turn around his season at the Giro d’Italia and overcome his disappointing Tour de France, comparing his 2020 season without a victory after moving from Deceuninck-QuickStep to Cofidis as that of as a soccer centre forward or striker who is unable to score goals.
“It’s a fair comparison, the two situations are similar. But if I start scoring or winning, then I might not stop,” Viviani told La Gazzetta dello Sport as he awaited the start of the Giro d’Italia in Palermo, Sicily.
Viviani enjoyed two hugely successful seasons with Deceuninck-QuickStep in 2018 and 2019 after three seasons with Team Sky. He won four stages at the 2018 Giro d’Italia and a stage at the 2019 Tour de France plus the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic, a second Hamburg EuroEyes Cyclassics and the European road race title with Italy.
However since swapping Deceuninck-QuickStep blue for Cofidis red, Viviani has not won a sprint. He has a string of placings so far but his best result in the three Tour de France sprints he contested was fourth on stage 10.
Viviani lost his smile as he suffered at the Tour de France but is hoping to find his sprint mojo on home roads in Italy during his seventh Giro d’Italia.
“It’s hard to smile when things don’t go as you hoped at the Tour,” he explained on Friday. “I’m not interested in making excuses, I’m here to bounce back.”
Only a handful of riders have accepted to ride both the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia, clocking up 42 days of racing in just eight weeks. Peter Sagan, for example, did a deal with the race organisers and accepted to miss the Classics, Viviani did it because he wants to get back that winning feeling.
“If I’d felt tired after the Tour I wouldn’t be here but I feel good after the Tour de France and I’m motivated,” he said. “I also need to race, I’ve always swapped from the road to the track and back. Perhaps the lockdown has cost me something compared to last year.
“We see the Giro as a chance to fight back and get the season back on track. I always go well after riding a first Grand Tour, look at last season.
“I want to prove that I can win again, to myself and to one or two others. I had two great seasons and so things can’t change in just a few months. But I need a result to prove it.”
Viviani expects a battle equal to that of the Tour de France but with different rivals. Tour de France green jersey Sam Bennett and stage winners Caleb Ewan, Alexander Kristoff and Wout van Aert are not in Italy, but other big-name sprinters are.
“There are different names but the sprint level is the same as the Tour,” he insisted. “In order of rivalry and talents, I’d say it’s Gaviria, Démare, Sagan and then Matthews.”
Viviani does not want to use changing teams as an excuse for his dry spell. He no doubt benefited greatly from the work of Deceuninck-QuickStep and the superb leadouts by Michael Mørkøv but he often finished off the work of the team with superb sprint skills and the speed to win. He currently lacks the leadout and the finishing speed.
“There are two aspects to it. The first is mental: a sprinter always wants to win, just like a striker. The other is technical: when you lose that winning instinct, of going at the right moment, of following the right wheel, you lose the feeling of having the perfect sprint and struggle even more.”
Viviani left Deceuninck-QuickStep to earn significantly more at Cofidis and the Belgian replaced him with Sam Bennett, who won two stages and the green jersey at the Tour de France.
The Cofidis lead out train is still under construction. With loyal teammate and friend Fabio Sabatini missing from the Giro d’Italia due to COVID-19 and other riders also ill and unavailable, Viviani can only count on fellow Italian Simone Cosonni and Australia’s Nathan Haas.
“I don’t want to make excuses,” Viviani made clear. “I’ve no regrets. I thought things would work out better but they haven’t happened. But let’s do all we can to change things and win.
“The idea was to build a lead out train for me but for different reasons it hasn’t yet been possible. We’re still working on it and explaining to the team that you can’t just dive into a sprint and hope to win.
“We’ve unfortunately lost Sabatini to COVID-19 and now Ken vanbilsen. He came to Italy but has the flu. He’s tested negative for COVID-19 but has gone home.
We’re going from virtually a full train for me to two guys – Consonni and Haas, who can drop me off. Lets hope I can still put the ball in the back of the net.”