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Having latched onto Sagan’s wheel, Viviani came around the world champion to take a comfortable win in stage two of the Abu Dhabi Tour; the Italian also takes the overall lead on a countback

Photo: Dubai Tour










09.10.2015 @ 15:15 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Elia Viviani (Sky) made up for yesterday’s disappointment as he powered to victory in a very fast tailwind sprint on stage two of the Abu Dhabi Tour. The Italian positioned himself perfectly on Peter Sagan’s (Tinkoff-Saxo) wheel and easily came around the world champion to take both the stage win and the leader’s jersey.


After his impressive three stage wins in the Tour of Britain and aggressive ride in the Worlds road race, Elia Viviani was widely tipped as the man to beat in the Abu Dhabi Tour bunch sprints. The Italian had both proved to be in great condition and with Ben Swift and Andy Fenn at his side, he had arguably the best lead-out train.


However, nothing went to plan in the opening sprint stage after Sky had worked hard on the front all day. The lead-out failed completely and Viviani had to do the sprint along, rolling across the line in a disappointing seventh place.


Today Sky played the cards differently as they refused to do any early work and left it to Astana and Giant-Alpecin to chase the breakaway down. They only came to the fore late in the stage but again their lead-out failed completely.


However, Viviani overcame the lack of team support and made use of his blistering speed to make up for yesterday’s disappointment by winning the stage. The Italian positioned himself perfectly on Peter Sagan’s wheel and when the world champion launched his sprint, he easily came around the Slovakian.


With 20km to go, Daniel Patten (Wiggins), Alessandro Bazzana (Unitedhealthcare) and Maxim Belkov (Katusha) still held an advantage of 1.20 and it was the Astana pair of Paolo Tiralongo and Fabio Aru that were leading the chase. On the big four-lane road, things were getting stressful as Marcus Burghardt (BMC) briefly moved to the front in the big fight for position but the Astana riders were still doing the majority of the work.


With 18km to go, Movistar took over with Marc Soler and Alejandro Valverde and the former traded pulls with Daniel Oss (BMC) for a while. With 16km to go, Tinkoff-Saxo took over as Matteo Tosatto tried to force a split in the wind, bringing the gap down to just 15 seconds.


BMC also tried to create a selection but when they swung off, the pace went down. Surprisingly, Tiralongo made an attack and as BMC shut it down, the gap was down to just metres.


Belkov and Bazzana sat up while Patten launched a solo move. Meanwhile, William Clarke (Drapac) and Rafaa Chtioui (Skydive) attacked out of the peloton and Belkov latched onto their wheel while Bazzana was caught. The trio passed Patten who fell back to the peloton.


Tinkoff started to chase with Manuele Boaro but the trio still managed to press out an advantage of almost 10 seconds. Carlos Verona took a turn for Etixx-QuickStep before Valverde and Giovanni Visconti hit the front for Movistar.


With 9km to go, the gap was still 8 seconds and it was now time for Sky to kick into action. Ben Swift started to trade pulls with Aru and their work was enough to slowly reel the break in. With 6km to go, Belkov and Clarke sat up while Chtioui tried to continue with a 5-second advantage.


Anton Vorobyev (Katusha) launched a strong attack to join the lone Tunisian while Aru and Swift continued to set the pace. When Swift swung off, Tiralongo again came to the fore but the gap had gone out to 10 seconds with 4km to go.


Tiralongo ended his work while Aru continued to ride on the front and Marcel Kittel drifted to the rear end of the field. Sam Bewley came through for Orica-GreenEDGE and with Esteban Chaves on his wheel, he took a massive turn that brought the break back with 2.4km to go.


Tinkoff hit the front with Tosatto, Daniele Benatti, Juraj and Peter Sagan but the train got split when Stijn Vandenbergh, Lukasz Wisniowski and Fabio Sabatini moved onto Tosatto’s wheel. Vandenbergh took over with 1.5km to go to set up the lead-out for Etixx-QuickStep which had lost Tom Boonen in an earlier crash and were doing the sprint for Sabatini.


Daniel Oss launched a strong attack under the flamme rouge but Bennati was quick to react and immediately shut it down. Oss kept riding on the front until Bennati took over, followed by Sabatini, Sagan, Viviani and Wisniowski.


Sagan launched his sprint with around 200m to go and was in the perfect position but unfortunately he had the fastest rider in the peloton on his wheel. Viviani easily came around to take the win while Sagan had to settle for another second place, with Sabatini taking third.


Guardini failed to finish in the top 10 and so Viviani and the Astana rider are now equal on time in GC. As Viviani was seventh yesterday, he takes the leader’s jersey on a countback.


However, he is likely to lose it already tomorrow when the riders face the queen stage. The route is completely flat until the peloton hits the bottom of the final 11km that averages 6.6% and will decide the overall winner of the race.


A flat stage

After yesterday’s hot, flat opener, it was another flat affair on day as the riders covered 129km from the Yas Marina Circuit to the nearby Yas Mall. The stage took place in the capital of Abu Dhabi and stayed between 2 and 7 metres above sea level, meaning that it was a high-speed affair on long, straight roads with few technical challenges.


It was another brutally hot day when the riders gathered for the start even though the 34-degree temperatures were slightly more bearable than yesterday’s scorching heat. All riders who finished yesterday’s stage were present as they rolled out through the neutral zone.


Six riders get clear

Unlike yesterday, it was a pretty fast start with a few attacks that Astana had to control before they allowed six riders to get clear. Again sprints leader Paul Voss (Bora-Argon 18) and Alessandro Bazzana (Unitedhealthcare) were present and they were joined by Soufiane Haddi (Skydive), Maxim Belkov (Katusha), Daniel Patten (Wiggins) and Federico Zurlo (Unitedhealthcare).


The sextet had built an advantage of two minutes after 30 minutes of racing but Astana were unwilling to give them too much of a gap. As they reached the 39km mark, the Kazakh team had refused to let them got more than a little more than two minutes. The gap hadn’t changed when the riders passed the 50km mark.


Boonen and Bos abandon, Voss disqualified

Haddi beat Belkov and Bazzana in the first intermediate sprint while Voss nearly went down in a crash after an incident with Zurlo. Reportedly, the German later hit the Italian and he was disqualified from the race, leaving just five riders in the break.


With 70km to go, there was a crash in the peloton involving Boonen and the MTN-Qhubeka pair of Theo Bos and Songezo Jim. Unfortunately, both Bos and Boonen were forced to abandon.


The chase gets organized

The gap went out to three minutes but the chase got more serious as when Tiralongo and Valerio Agnoli (Astana) joined forces with Cheng Ji (Giant-Alpecin). The trio had reduced the gap to 2.20 with 55km to go and unlike yesterday, they rode at a fast pace, reducing the gap to 1.40 just 10km later.


Inside the final 40km, the gap was down to just 1.15 and the escapees were now preparing themselves for the final intermediate sprint. Zurlo launched a long sprint and got an immediate gap while Bazzana and Haddi went head to head further back. The Unitedhealthcare plan was for Bazzana to win the sprint and so Zurlo slowed down to allow his teammate to pass him, making it a 1-2 for the American team with Haddi in third.


The break splits up

Patten made an immediate counterattack before Belkov and Bazzana managed to join him. Haddi and Zurlo sat up and waited for the peloton.


With 32km to go, the gap was 1.15 and it was still Tiralongo, Agnoli and Ji setting the pace. However, they were losing ground and the front trio had increased their advantage to two minutes just five kilometres later.


Ji and Agnoli swung off and left it to a very strong Tiralongo to ride on the front. He brought the gap down to 1.40 as they entered the final 25km. Moments later Aru came to the fore to help him but in the end it was all in vain as Viviani took the win.



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