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First Tour stage victory means so much, says Viviani

 

Roaring success: Elia Viviani
Roaring success: Elia Viviani

By Ian Parker

Elia Viviani claimed his first career Tour de France stage win in a sprint finish in Nancy as Deceuninck-Quick Step team-mate Julian Alaphilippe retained the yellow jersey.

The Italian sprinter, frustrated to leave the Giro d'Italia empty-handed in May, took the first pure sprint opportunity of this year's Tour as he edged out UAE Team Emirates' Alexander Kristoff on the line.

It was a second straight stage victory for Viviani's Belgian team after Alaphilippe's champagne moment in Epernay on Monday powered him into yellow.

"It means a lot," said Viviani, who has won five Giro stages and three Vuelta stages, but was missing one from the biggest race of all. "I can't believe it still. It was a big goal for the year.

"I'm pretty happy. I was missing this win."

Lotto-Soudal's Caleb Ewan had to settle for third, while former world champion Peter Sagan of Bora-Hansgrohe came fourth.

And the bunch finish meant there was no change at the top of the general classification, in which Alaphilippe leads by 20 seconds from Jumbo-Visma's Wout van Aert.

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 defending champion Geraint Thomas.

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

"It is what it is," Thomas said. "No-one wins the Tour on five-second sprint finishes but obviously it would be better not to have lost that.

"If I am off the podium by four I might be more disappointed."

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

"I think way too much has been made of it," he said.

"If anyone understands the sport, there is 30m gap. 'G' sat up a little bit, he thought people were trying to come over him and that is it.

"It makes no difference."

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