Italian Elia Viviani of Cannondale Pro Cycling outsprinted Belgium’s Gianni Meersman and Tony Gallopin of France to win the second stage of the Criterium du Dauphine after 191km from Chatel to Oyonnax, France, on Monday.
Canadian David Veilleux of Europcar, the winner of the first stage, retained the overall leader’s jersey.
It was the 24-year-old Viviani’s first win this season and it came after he twice finished second to sprint king Mark Cavendish at last month’s Giro d’Italia.
With few top sprinters at the hilly, week-long stage race, which serves as a key buildup to the Tour de France later this month, Viviani imposed himself easily in the sprint finish, helped by the fact that the peloton was reduced in size due to a lumpy final 60km, which had removed French champion Nacer Bouhanni and Norwegian counterpart Thor Hushovd from the reckoning.
It was his participation in the Giro that Viviani believes gave him the edge over his rivals.
“The distance was an advantage. Coming from the Giro, I had more reserves than the others,” said one of the new generation of Italian sprinters, hoping to fill the void left by greats Mario Cipollini and Alessandro Pettachi.
“I came to the Dauphine for two reasons, firstly so the team would have a leader as the others are riding the Tour of Switzerland and also to have the chance of winning, which I had yet to do this season,” Viviani said. “At the Giro I was twice second behind Mark Cavendish, who was in great form. It was difficult to beat him, but after the Giro I recovered well and remained concentrated.”
On a stage including six categorized climbs, although none too taxing, a four-man breakaway tried their luck, but Veilleux’s Europcar team never let them get too far down the road as they worked hard to keep hold of the leader’s jersey.
“My teammates did a great job, I owe them one. We let a four-man break get away and we managed it well,” said the Canadian, who did not expect to hold onto his lead for more than another 24 hours. “We hope to keep the jersey tomorrow [Tuesday], but Wednesday’s time trial, we’ll see.”
In the finale, Cofidis teammates Rudy Molard of France and Estonian Rein Taaramae both had a solo crack for home, as did Juan Antonio Flecha, but none could make it stick on a speedy finish to the stage.
Yesterday’s third stage saw the riders tackle a 167km course from Amberieu-en-Bugey to Tarare, France.
AP, AIGLE, Switzerland
Giro d’Italia stage winner Mauro Santambrogio tested positive for EPO in a sample given on the opening day of the race last month, cycling’s governing body announced on Monday.
Santambrogio joined his Vini Fantini-Selle Italia teammate and fellow Italian Danilo di Luca in failing doping tests involving the banned blood-boosting hormone in connection with the country’s signature race.
“At this point I should quit cycling because you really can’t trust the riders,” Vini Fantini team director Luca Scinto said at the Italian cycling federation, where he was attending a hearing on the Di Luca case. “If I had [Santambrogio] within my hands now I would hit him. At this point we’re all finished. I had spoken to Santambrogio before the Giro and I told him that there were some rumors going around about him. A lot of people were saying he’s riding too fast, but he was explicit and guaranteed me he was clean, and said that he was offended by my request for an explanation. ‘Luca, it’s just envy,’ he told me and I always defended him.”