Viviani retains blue jersey in frantic uphill finish
A huge effort of the Quick-Step Floors team and a big ride of the Italian on the last climb have moved Elia one step closer to winning the Dubai Tour.
Elia Viviani battled the stiff gradients to Hatta Dam, the high temperatures and the crazy fast tempo of stage 4, successfully defending his overall lead at the Middle East race ahead of the final day, in addition to retaining the blue jersey taking also the red one, which rewards the most consistent rider in the points classification.
Everybody was expecting a super nervous stage, but nobody thought it will go down to the wire, with Brandon McNulty (Rally Cycling) – the last survivor of the original six-man escape – caught only 150 meters from the line, when the gradient ramped up to 17%. Quick-Step Floors rode incredibly once again and spared no effort, as Tim Declercq, Fabio Jakobsen and Maximilian Schachmann constantly exchanged turns at the front and drilled the pace for Elia Viviani, who was tucked in the wheel of Fabio Sabatini.
Over the top of the penultimate climb, as McNulty was dropping his breakaway companions, Niki Terpstra was picking up the pace behind, erasing a good chunk of the deficit just as the brutal Hatta Dam was getting closer and closer. With two kilometers to go, the Dutchman peeled off the front, leaving Yves Lampaert to set up Viviani, which the Belgian ITT Champion dutifully did, his effort being instrumental in the final result of our sprinter.
Victorious on stage 2, Elia dug deep on the leg-sapping finish once the gradient kicked up, getting out of the saddle and leaving everything on the road in an attempt to not lose any time. Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) was the day's winner, but Viviani managed to keep in touch, finishing in sixth place and retaining the blue jersey.
"The team was very strong, I couldn't have done it today without them. The goal was to defend the jersey and the boys pulled like crazy behind the break. When the gap was hovering at a minute, I asked Niki and Yves to pull hard, as I felt there was a chance of coming within 20 seconds of McNulty at the foot of the climb. I felt pretty good on the hill and I'm happy with my result", explained Elia, who was a two-second margin over Magnus Cort (Astana) ahead of the fifth and final stage.
"Tomorrow it will be an interesting day. I'm finding myself in a good position of winning the overall, so we will control the stage once again and hopefully I'll put in the best sprint I am capable of", concluded Viviani, the new leader of the points standings, who can become the third Quick-Step Floors rider to take the honors at the Dubai Tour.
Photo: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images