Italian sprinter Elia Viviani is clear when he talks about the biggest dreams he hopes to fulfil in his sport.
"Milan-Sanremo is the biggest goal after the Olympics for me in my career," he told Sport360 last week prior to the Dubai Tour.
Milan-Sanremo, dubbed 'La Classicissima', is one of the most prestigious Classics in the history of cycling.
With a distance of 298km, from Milan to Sanremo in north-west Italy, it is the longest professional one-day race in modern cycling and Viviani is one of countless riders who dream of conquering it.
This year’s Milan-Sanremo, the first of five ‘Monuments’ (the five oldest, longest and most prestigious one-day races in professional cycling) contested each season, is scheduled for March 17 and Viviani has set his heart on winning it.
Elia Viviani owns just a slender two-second lead at the top of the Dubai Tour general classification heading into Saturday’s finale but the Italian can find comfort in the considerable gap he created between himself and his main sprint rivals during Friday’s fourth stage.
Viviani retained his leader’s blue jersey on top of Hatta Dam after claiming sixth place following a steep summit finish.
The Quick-Step Floors rider had started stage four with a four-second advantage over sprint star Mark Cavendish – the winner in Fujairah on day three – but Viviani’s Hatta exploits means he is now well ahead of the Manxman in the overall standings.
Cavendish, who placed 20th on Friday, 11 seconds behind, now trails Viviani by 15 seconds in the GC to lie 12th, while two-time defending champion Marcel Kittel is 28 seconds adrift of the Italian in 17th.
It gives Viviani confidence ahead of today’s sprint finish at City Walk, where he hopes to secure the Dubai Tour title. Two seconds separate him from Magnus Cort Nielsen in the GC, with yesterday’s stage winner Sonny Colbrelli two seconds behind.
— ELIA VIVIANI (@eliaviviani) February 9, 2018
A frustrated Yousif Mirza rued yet another missed opportunity for UAE Team Emirates after they failed to get their leader Alexander Kristoff first over the finish line atop Hatta Dam in the Dubai Tour fourth stage on Friday.
Kristoff, the reigning European champion, has engaged in tight sprint battled over the past few days on the roads of the UAE but is still searching for that maiden victory with the Emirati outfit.
The Norwegian heads into Saturday’s fifth and final stage in eighth place in the GC standings and Mirza is hopeful they home team can finish the Dubai Tour on a high note.
“We worked all day for Alex so we could get our first win of the season but it wasn’t meant to be,” the Emirati rider told Sport360 as he gasped for air following a gruelling finish in Hatta.
“We still have a fifth chance to do it. It’s a flat stage and perhaps our best chance to get the win.”
Kristoff took fourth place in Friday’s Hatta Stage behind Sonny Colbrelli, Magnus Cort Nielsen and Timo Roosen. He was seventh on stages two and three. UAE Team Emirates have been riding for Kristoff all week but the taste of victory is yet to come for the 30-year-old sprinter.
“Honestly we did everything we could today, we put in a huge effort,” said Mirza, a local who knows this climb like the back of his hand and who crossed the finish line in 24thplace.
“For Alex, there really isn’t anything missing for him to grab a victory. The entire team is working for him. He’s our leader. But Bahrain-Merida did a better job today. The climb made all the difference in the end. Sonny had two riders ready to help him in the final 200m. It’s only 200m but as you can see it’s a very steep climb. So the first team to get there will of course get the win.”
Kristoff was not too disappointed with how things unfolded, saying: “I’m pretty satisfied with fourth place. Whilst a podium position would have been a great way to end a great race, I prefer to focus my attention on the fact that I’m producing consistent performances in the top 10.”
“My team-mates were fantastic leading me to the approach of Hatta Dam, especially Sven Erik Bystrom and Matteo Bono who both did a really impressive job. My legs were fairly good, but maybe the final few metres were too heavy for me.”