Victory may have been the biggest thing on his mind during his visit to the Emirates this week, but Elia Viviani was also delighted to see the amount of people riding their bikes in Dubai.
The Italian won Stage 2 and 5 of the Dubai Tour to take overall victory, avoiding a pile-up on the final corner on Saturday to sprint to stage victory ahead of Marco Haller and Adam Blythe and overall victory too, finishing 12 seconds in front of Astana’s Magnus Cort Nielsen in second and 14 ahead of third-placed Bahrain-Merida man Sonny Colbrelli.
Viviani had spent longer in the UAE than his fellow Quick-Step Floors colleagues, arriving 10 days before the race. And part of his preparations for the Tour was spent riding along the Al Qudra Cycle Track on the outskirts of the city, where he pleasantly surprised by the amount of fellow enthusiasts joining him.
“I spent a good week here in Dubai and I also enjoyed the city, so I can understand how many tourists are around and also how many cyclists are around,” said the 29-year-old sprint king following his victory.
“I’m pretty surprised when last Saturday we went to the bike track in Al Qudra, it was a full crowd at 08:00 in the morning. So it was amazing to see how many people go on the bike.”
Although winning is of paramount importance to the teams and riders, part of the legacy of the event – and the Abu Dhabi Tour which takes place at the end of this month – is to encourage and invest in the sport outside these races.
And Enrico Fili, of race organisers RCS Sport, was delighted by the support for the fifth edition of the race.
“I would like to underline the main thing we noticed about this year is that we saw a lot of people around the race,” said Fili.
“For us it’s a big success. It means the Dubai Tour has made the culture of cycling grow in this country so normal people are starting to watch the Dubai Tour.
“This was the fifth edition and we see how many people attended all five stages and this is something that’s very important to us.”
And, as the dust settled on the event, joint race organisers, the Dubai Sports Council, insist arrangements are already under way to plan the sixth edition next year.
“The event is in its fifth year and we are now looking forward to the sixth edition,” said DSC secretary general Saeed Hareb.
“Spectator-wise today we saw how many people were at the finish line. There were more this year and we hope next year there will be more again.
“We are waiting for the feedback from the teams and whether they are happy with it. It’s a growing project. It’s the first time we covered two ports, Jebel Ali Port and Rashid Port. I’m sure they enjoyed it. Old Dubai and new Dubai, and we will see what the next step is.
“We will have a meeting immediately after the race to see what is going to happen. We will keep going and working on it. We will work together with RCS. We work as one family, one team, just an agreement is to be signed.”
Italian Elia Viviani won the Dubai Tour on Saturday after the Quick Step rider sprinted to victory in the fifth and final stage.
Viviani, the Rio Olympic champion in the omnium, emerged triumphant after the 132km stage along the emirate's roads.
Danish rider Magnus Cort Nielsen of Astana finished second overall, 12 seconds back, and TBM's Sonny Colbrelli, another Italian, was third.
— Sport360° (@Sport360) February 11, 2018
In addition to claiming the white jersey, the 25-year-old Dane also made general classification winner Elia Viviani sweat as he trailed by just two seconds entering the final day.
The late crash on the final turn of stage five did Cort Nielsen no favours, but he appeared too far behind in the peloton to challenge Viviani in the straight anyways.
With the bonuses factored in, Cort Nielsen finished 12 seconds behind Viviani for second overall, while Bahrain Merida’s Sonny Colbrelli rounded out the podium another two seconds behind.
Second place in the final GC and winner of Young Rider Classification: @MagnusCort!— Astana Pro Team (@AstanaTeam) February 10, 2018
🗣️"It’s a good debut for me at Astana Pro Team!"
📝#AstanaProTeam Race Report: https://t.co/mLZOyhdXkH.
📸 @bettiniphoto pic.twitter.com/CynuYFphXx
Despite missing out on the Circle of Stars trophy, Cort Nielsen was pleased with what he managed to accomplish in his season and team debut.
“It means a lot,” he said. “Also with second place, I’m very happy, especially because it’s my first race with Astana. So it’s very, very nice to start not only the season, but a new time of my career with a new team to show that I’m ready, I want to race and they can trust me.
“Astana was searching for someone like me and I’m very happy to be here.”
After impressing early on, Cort Nielsen has high hopes for the Classics, which he views as his ultimate goal.
“That’s just real cycling,” he said. “Those are the biggest races to win, with the most prestige, from my point of view. Therefore, that’s where I dream about doing well and see them as the biggest races.”
It was a breakthrough for Team Novo Nordisk at the Dubai Tour, meanwhile, as Quentin Valognes earned the intermediate sprint crown for the outfit’s most significant win to date.
The team, who consist of riders with diabetes and raise awareness for the disease, saw Frenchman Valognes secure the UAE jersey by jumping out in the breakaway, where he finished second in the first intermediate sprint before winning the do-or-die final sprint for the title.
Chris Williams and Charles Planet also entered stage five in contention for the intermediate sprint and the Tour overall showcased just how far Team Novo Nordisk have come since turning professional in 2008.
“I don’t have enough words in English or French or any language to explain,” Valognes said. “Our mission is to better educate people on diabetes. By this kind of performance, we’re doing it more so it’s an awesome feeling.”