Elia Viviani interview: Italian sprinter on move to Quick-Step, his 2018 goals and why he's not Marcel Kittel

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When opportunity strikes, you have to go and grab it. And that is precisely what Italian rider Elia Viviani has done with his move from Team Sky to Quick-Step Floors at the end of last season.

Blessed with sprinter legs, unrivaled determination and a positive mentality, Viviani is finally in a team that can cater to his needs and provide a lead-out train that has helped some of the best sprinters in the world grab victories on the grandest of stages.

The Olympic omnium champion, who already claimed a stage win with his new Quick-Step team at the Tour Down Under last month, sat down with Sport360 on the sidelines of the ongoing Dubai Tour to discuss his big winter move, his goals for the season, and why he doesn’t see himself as a replacement for Marcel Kittel.

How did you get to the decision to leave Team Sky and how do you feel about your choice so far?

To be honest it was a really difficult choice for me to leave Team Sky because I spent a really nice three years with them. First year I won a stage in a Grand Tour at the Giro d’Italia, and it was my dream since I was young, the second year I won Olympic gold, so all the biggest goals I had in my life, I achieved them in those three years – I won Plouay and Hamburg last year, it’s not an easy choice for me but when I felt that Team Quick-Step wanted me I think it’s the biggest chance of my career.

Team Quick-Step are the best team for the sprinters, they had already Kittel, they had already Cav, all the best sprinters in the world raced for Team Quick-Step so this is a really big chance for me to go there and enjoy all the team, all the Quick-Step family, and also the work they do for a sprinter, like the lead-out, the positioning on the sprint and all this side. I think it’s going to be a really nice two years with Team Quick-Step.

Do you feel your goals align with those of your new team, and what kind of goals have you set for yourself this season?

I think it’s already a good feeling from the first training camp we’ve done. I knew already a lot of people inside the team and we worked well all winter and we put some big goals on the schedule and the main difference is that I have my leader programme, the guys around me are there to help me. Milan-Sanremo is the biggest goal after the Olympics for me in my career. After last year finishing in the top-10 for sure I want to go there and try to win this race. Back in the Giro d’Italia with the best conditions I can have is another goal of the season. After missing the Giro d’Italia last year I want really to come back stronger than ever. I want to come back and have the same feeling I had in Genova when I had my first win in a Grand Tour.

Marcel Kittel left Team Quick-Step after having a lot of success with them. Do you feel any pressure stepping into the vacant spot he left?

Why pressure? No. I’m really happy that I can enjoy his lead-out men, that’s a good thing for me. I’m really happy to join again ‘Saba’ [Fabio Sabatini], we have a good feeling already from when I turned pro, he was with me on the same team, Liquigas. Michael Morkov is another guy who is really important for me.

No pressure because I think I’m a really different rider from Marcel. I’m a sprinter but I’m not the best sprinter in the world – I’m not the most powerful sprinter in the world, but I can win. I can win also some Classics and that’s what I want to be, I don’t want to be just a sprinter, I really want to be a complete rider, that’s the goal. It doesn’t matter how many wins I get, like him, 14, 15 wins, I don’t want to think about that. I came to Team Quick-Step and he left Team Quick-Step but I just really want to think about the best chances I have, it’s a wonderful team and I want to enjoy that without pressure.

What was the biggest lesson you learned from last year?

The biggest lesson from last year is to keep going. Keep going because when you prepare one big goal like the Giro and you don’t do it in the end, you need to have a new goal in the head, and I worked really hard for the Classics, to prepare for Sanremo, the team helped me really back on the resistance legs after the Olympic Games and after the ninth place in Sanremo I was really focused on the last part of the season.

I think in that month, in August or September I really changed something in my head. Winning Plouay and Hamburg and going to Worlds like one of the favourites, it was a really good feeling for me. Always in my career, when I lose, I’m really, okay, disappointed in this moment, maybe the day after, but I also have a strong head to go away. You saw me last year when I lost the European Championship for nothing, 1cm on the line from [Alexander] Kristoff. In that moment I’m really disappointed but in my head I have more motivation for the next goal and I won Hamburg, and the next goal again, I won Plouay, so that is my mentality. I think I need to continue in that way. You never stop learning during the career.

Have you always been this way or did it take you time to develop this mentality?

I think in my mind, it’s just, you can’t change what has already happened, what can you do? Nothing. So why cry on that or thinking about that too much? That’s the mentality. Sometimes it’s a winning mentality, you go really full on one goal and if you lose you feel like you’ve lost everything but there’s always a new challenge coming. So I think this year is going to be a really good challenge for me and I’m really happy and I want to enjoy that.

You’re up against some of the world’s best sprinters here in Dubai, how are you approaching this race?

The start of the season is really important for the sprinters because everyone wants to win quickly. This is a race where we have a lot of chances. We have four chances of five, and maybe the fifth stage also in Hatta can be won. For that I really wanted to start the season early in Australia because I wanted to come here really ready. You see the start list, the biggest sprinters in the world are there, maybe also in the Grand Tour you don’t have all these sprinters in the same race. If you win here, you’re winning in front of the best sprinters in the world. The difficult job is to win.

We try to do everything well and we really want to enjoy it here, good weather, good temperature, good hotel, good organisation, it’s what we need for the start of the season. That’s why all the biggest riders are here.

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Four reasons why you should cycle in the UAE

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With races on every few weekends, cycling is becoming one of the UAE’s fastest growing sports.

Aside from the standard health benefits such as improving your fitness, strength, flexibility and joint mobility, cycling is one of the most enjoyable outdoor activities.

Here’s our four reasons why you should cycle.

Easier on the body than other sports

Lower back and knee pain is prevalent from playing football, rugby and other activities on the hard ground.

All the power from sprinting causes significant stress on the body, as the muscles and tendons are unable to cope with the sheer force.

On the other hand, cycling is better for the body and can limit injuries – although some do still occur.

Less frustrating

Tennis, squash or golf are up there with the most frustrating sports when you’re not playing well.

Of course, every sport can be frustrating, but with cycling, every kilometer will make you fitter.

If you’re not enjoying it, you can turn around and cycle home. Unfortunately with golf if you’re losing by 10 shots after six holes, you still have to play the rest of the round!

Not stuck to one place

When playing different sports, you are confined to one small area.

During a 30/50km bike ride, you are guaranteed to see more, be less bored and feel better knowing it’s a more demanding work out.

Chance to get to know more people

The beauty of sport is its ability to boost mental health and connect with new people.

The great thing about cycling is how you can go out with a large group, and ride side by side with someone and talk for as long as you want.

Having someone to talk to during exercise takes the boredom from it as time goes by quicker.

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Where to cycle in UAE - Al Qudra Cycle Path, Dubai Autodrome, Yas Marina Circuit and more

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The hardest step is getting off the sofa and leaving the house!

Cycling is the easiest way to get fitter and is incredibly effective at making you mentally and physically healthier.

If you’re looking to improve your fitness, check out these five cycling routes.

AL QUDRA CYCLE PATH

Al Qudra cycling path is the most popular destination among UAE’s cycling community.

The 86 kilometre track, consisting primarily of a 50 km loop, is a pedal power paradise located east out of Dubai, near Studio City and Arabian Ranches.

Depending on racing speed, the track takes between 1.5 and 3 hours to complete.

If you did not have a bike, Trek UAE shop — located at the end of Al Qudra Road — is the perfect place to rent your bike.

Each bike rental also includes a helmet and lights, as parts of Al Qudra Cycling Track are not well lit after dark.

The path itself is free of charge.

MORE INFO: Al Qudra Cycle Path

NAD AL SHEBA CYCLE PATH

Once a camel racing track, the Nad Al Sheba Cycle Path is now a family-friendly cycle park with a choice of an 8km, 6km and 4km paths designed for both cycling and running.

The whole course is lit by night and has all the necessary facilities, including restrooms and changing rooms with showers.

Nad Al Sheba is a great place to bike for all ages with a breathtaking view of the skyline of Downtown Dubai.

MORE INFO: Nad Al Sheba Cycle Path

DUBAI AUTODROME

The Dubai Autodrome normally roars to the sound of motorbikes, but every Wednesday evening, it is taken up by cyclists and runners.

From 6-9 pm, cyclists who bring their own bike are invited to lap the 2.5 km track under floodlights.

The free night attracts a mix of experienced and beginner cyclists all looking to train somewhere without the worry of busy roads.

MORE INFO: Dubai Autodrome

YAS MARINA CIRCUIT

On Tuesday and Sunday evenings, runners and cyclists have the chance to lap one of Formula One’s most iconic tracks.

A mix of pro and amateur cyclists descend on the track in the capital to pedal around the circuit as part of the TrainYas and StartYas programmes.

Each lap is 5.5km and the circuit is open from 6-8.30pm. Remember to register online to avoid disappointment.

MORE INFO: Yas Marina Circuit

HATTA MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAIL CENTRE

Cyclists from around the UAE can take in the stunning mountainous region of Hatta at the various trails on offer at the Hatta Mountain Bike Trail Centre.

The route – 134kms east of Dubai – is arguably the best destination for mountain bikers, offering 14 kms of routes which cater for riders of all abilities.

The trail is split into different sections, with green for beginners, blue for intermediates, red for experienced riders and black for the elite.

If you want to venture for a coffee and some food after, then Hatta village has some nice cafes and supermarkets.

MORE INFO: Hatta Mountain Bike Trail Centre

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