Quick-Step’s sprinters off to fast start in 2018

Elia Viviani and Fernando Gaviria have a combined eight wins this season, including Viviani's stage win Thursday in Abu Dhabi.

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (VN) — If it keeps going like this, Quick-Step Floors’s team boss Patrick Lefevere will give his sprinters Elia Viviani and Fernando Gaviria a massive “thank you” at the end of 2018.

So far, the Colombian Gaviria has earned four stage wins and Italy’s Viviani has four, counting his one Thursday in the second stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour.

“Who is going to win more? I hope it’s 20 for each of us,” Viviani said. “Patrick will be happy, for sure.”

Gaviria has been developing in the Quick-Step stables since 2015. This season, Lefevere made way for him to lead its top sprint team and let Marcel Kittel go to Katusha-Alpecin.

After winning four stages in the 2017 Giro d’Italia, Gaviria will race the Tour de France for the first time this summer.

Viviani joined the squad after winning the Olympic omnium and spending years finding his space on Team Sky’s talented roster. When the opportunity came to leave early, he opened his arms wide to Quick-Step.

The team is giving him a chance to lead its Giro d’Italia lineup and, if all goes well, to be as successful as Gaviria with his four stage wins and the points jersey.

“It’s a good start to this year, it’s a good period of my career,” Viviani said. “I changed to the team and you see me powerful from the start with the team.

“It was the goal to start well. To race the Tour Down Under [where he had one stage win] and reach Dubai with a good feeling. When you break the ice it keeps getting easier.”

While Gaviria raced in Colombia, Viviani won two stages and the overall in the Dubai Tour. One week later, he is in the Abu Dhabi Tour. He was fourth behind winner Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Emirates) in the opening stage and first in Thursday’s stage 2.

“My condition is good, but the team too. Alvaro [Hodeg], who came from Colombia and working for Gaviria,” Viviani said. “Michael Morkov has such experience to put me in position. And I have such faith in Fabio Sabatini, 100 percent.”

Thursday’s stage broke into echelons when the Arabian wind picked up across the UAE. Quick-Step counted Enric Mas and Julian Alaphilippe in the first group.

“I just said on the radio to stop everyone and wait for me. I understand that everyone is working for me to keep getting results,” Viviani said.

“I have that responsibly, just telling Mas and Alaphilippe to do a good job staying in front, even if I’m sorry they didn’t have that chance to keep that gap. I took the occasion to close that gap, James [Knox] and Alvaro [Hodeg] worked to close it.”

Quick-Step counts 11 wins so far in 2018. Last year, the Belgian WorldTour team tallied 56. With Gaviria and Viviani, the team is well on its way to matching 2017 and making Lefevere happy.

“We are more relaxed, we won. The pressure is off our shoulders,” Viviani said.

“I know I have good condition and when you have that you are always there. I told the guys, ‘In every sprint we do, if you put me in good position, I’ll never finish out of the top five.’

“For sure, they believe in me, but now it’s even more.”

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