Elia Viviani made it two in a row for Deceuninck – Quick-Step at the 106th Tour de France, emerging as the fastest in an enthralling sprint at the end of the long 213.5km fourth stage to Nancy.
“This victory means a lot to me. Actually, I can’t believe that I won today, it’s crazy. Notching up a stage here at the Tour de France was one of my season’s biggest goal, and having achieved it thanks to the team’s outstanding work makes me very, very happy”, Viviani said after his success, which made him the 18th active rider boasting stage wins in all Grand Tours.
With Kasper Asgreen still on the mend following his crash on Monday, Yves Lampaert assumed pace-setting duties, as soon as the field left behind Reims and its stunning Gothic cathedral and three men – Yoann Offredo and Frederik Backaert of Wanty-Gobert and Michael Schar (CCC Team) – slipped clear. The peloton made sure the gap would hover around the three-minute mark and they clawed back the escapees on the last climb of the day, Côte de Maron.
The peloton remained together over the top of the hill, despite a strong tempo of some teams who tried to put the sprinters in the red, and later pegged back a solo attacker, before making way for the lead-out trains. Yellow jersey Julian Alaphilippe took over the lead, furiously stretching out the bunch and bringing his teammates in position under the flamme rouge.
Danish Champion Michael Mørkøv then piloted the Deceuninck – Quick-Step train, peeling off with only 500 metres to go, when Argentinean Champion Max Richeze stepped in and delivered the lead-out for Viviani, who could afford to wait until inside the final 200 metres before hitting out and powering past his rivals en route to celebrating his win. Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates) took second ahead of Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) with green jersey wearer Peter Sagan (BORA – hansgrohe) in fourth.
“With one kilometre to go I felt that everything was going perfect and was really confident. Then, when Kristoff anticipated the sprint, I was ready to go, but Max’s experienced played again a huge role and so I waited a bit before opening my sprint close to the barriers. Julian’s win in Épernay motivated us and I’m glad I could keep the team’s streak going. I don’t have enough words to tell you how proud I am to have this incredible squad around me: Yves and Dries worked hard, Michael and Max provided a perfect lead and having yellow jersey Julian pulling for me in the final was truly special.”
The victory helped the 30-year-old Italian jump up to second in the green jersey classification: “It’s not my goal, but I’ll try to be in the mix at the intermediate sprints when the parcours favours me, just like I did today, and we’ll see what happens. One thing is certain: if all bunch finishes will be like the one of today, then I can hope of winning it.”
Julian Alaphilippe concluded the stage safely in the pack and on Wednesday’s stage in the Vosges will sport the unique personalised yellow jersey displaying Jacques Anquetil, the first five-time winner of the Tour de France.