Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick Step) went one better than in 2018 to clinch the victory in the men’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. He outpowered Lotto Soudal’s Caleb Ewan and Mitchelton-Scott’s Daryl Impey in a reduced bunch sprint.
Second in the same race last year, this time round Viviani proved unbeatable on the finishing straight on the Waterfront in Geelong, the town which hosted the UCI Road World Championships back in 2010. Already the winner of the Santos Tour Down Under’s opening stage this season, Viviani has confirmed his excellent form with his second victory of 2019, and 70th of his career - all in less than two weeks.
As a result of Viviani’s latest performance, the Italian has moved up to second in the individual UCI World Ranking. As of January 27th, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) continues to lead with 4,038 points, Viviani is now second with 3,166 points and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) drops a spot to third, with 3,160.
In the only other change in the World Ranking top ten this week, Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) gains a place ahead of Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and is now ninth.
As has often been the case in his previous wins, Viviani’s ability to handle hilly terrain, almost as much as his ability to sprint, proved critical to his success in the 163km Australian Classic. The Italian Champion survived four tough climbs of Challambra Crescent, and was able to hang on in the main group when Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) tried his luck with a solo move in the last kilometre.
Ably guided into position by Danish lead-out man Michael Morkov, Viviani accelerated away with 200 metres to go to seal his second UCI WorldTour victory of the season.
“There were two second places [from] last year that I wanted to improve in 2019, and this was one of them,” Viviani, who will turn 30 early next month, explained. “I like this race a lot because it gives a chance to every type of rider, so I was really keen on winning here.
“I knew that some rival squads were interested in dropping me and pushed a hard tempo on the climb. But we played it smart and each time came back thanks to the best team in the world, who worked tirelessly and gave me a perfect lead-out.”
Indeed, the speed on the final laps in Geelong was such that none of the all-rounders or climbers, barring Porte, were able to gain much of a margin in the race finale.
Headed by Lotto Soudal, BORA-hansgrohe and Mitchelton-Scott, the peloton swept up the last of the early break: Astana Pro Team’s Laurens de Vreese on the the final lap and then his team-mate, counter-attacker Davide Ballerini, half way up the final ascent of Challambra.
Although Porte attempted the impossible with a last-ditch challenge, a reduced bunch sprint of around 35 riders became inevitable.
Having repeated his 2018 Santos Tour Under victory last week, like in 2018 Daryl Impey was once again third in Australia’s top one-day race. But the South African was not dissatisfied with a repeat result from 2018.
"There was a bit of a headwind on the climb, and we tried to drop Caleb and Viviani, but to finish third in that group of sprinters... I have to be happy with that," Impey said.
As for Viviani, he will return to racing in the UCI WorldTour’s next event, the UAE Tour, which runs from February 24th - March 2nd.