Sports

First Tour stage victory means so much, says Viviani

First Tour stage victory means so much, says Viviani

Viviani's victory was the flawless follow-up to Julian Alaphilippe's win on Monday for the Belgian team, who retained the yellow jersey after the Frenchman was cheered on all the way from Reims by massive crowds of locals and tourists.

Several sprinters had targeted Saturday's opening stage in Brussels but an uphill drag to the finish line proved too much for the pure quickmen.

Viviani, who has now posted stage wins at all three Grand Tours, was stripped of a victory in Italy after the race jury ruled he had irregularly changed his line and blocked an opponent in the sprint.

"I have a strong team around me who believes so much in me and they delivered a ideal lead-out. It was a big goal of the year", said Viviani, who dedicated his win to his fiancée and parents. We missed the first chance and put the yellow on. "That pervades the whole team and everybody is really focused and on it".

"I took his (Kristoff's) wheel and thought it was going to be close, but as you saw, it wasn't", said a relaxed looking Sagan.

'It was a nice day until the last 50km, when it went a bit insane, manic and stressful, ' the Welshman said, 'so I'm happy to get it out of the way'.

Three-time world champion Slovak Peter Sagan of Bora-Hansgrohe retained the green jersey as the points leader, while Belgian rider Tim Wellens of Lotto Soudal took the polka dot jersey.

Belgium's Wout van Aert of Team Jumbo-Visma is 20 seconds behind in second place.

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The 213.5km stage from Reims was raced at relatively sedate pace after the exertions of Monday's stage finale on the lumps and bumps of Champagne country, where Egan Bernal opened up a five-second gap on Ineos team-mate and British defending champion Geraint Thomas.

The significance of that margin was a strong topic of debate on Tuesday.

'We really had to bust a gut, ' said Thomas afterwards. "No-one wins the Tour on five-second sprint finishes but obviously it would be better not to have lost that".

"I just needed to do my job in the last few hundred meters".

"I hope there's more to come, there's a lot of racing to come".

Ineos team principal Sir Dave Brailsford dismissed the gap as irrelevant.

"A Tour stage was the only win I was missing, now I've got it", Viviani said happily. If anyone understands the sport and you watch the sport, there is a 30-metre gap.

"It wasn't a five-second gap, though, was it?" he insisted.


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