NANCY, France (Reuters) - Italy’s Elia Viviani completed his set of grand tour stage wins when he claimed the fourth stage of the Tour de France, a 213.5-km flat ride from Reims on Tuesday.
The Deceuninck-Quick Step rider, in his second Tour after first experiencing it in 2014, beat Norwegian Alexander Kristoff and Australian Caleb Ewan in a mass sprint finish.
“It was truly the big goal of this season. I won on the Giro, I won on the Vuelta, and now I have come full circle,” Viviani, who has five Giro d’Italia and three Vuelta stage wins to his name, told reporters.
“I had missed my lead-out in the first stage, it was my fault and I was very disappointed. So, this time I only thought about not losing (Maximiliano) Richeze’s wheel.”
The 30-year-old timed his effort perfectly to pip Kristoff to the line and move up to second in the points classification behind Slovakian Peter Sagan, who ended up fourth.
Sagan, who is hoping to claim a record-breaking seventh green jersey, leads on 104 points with Viviani on 81.
Viviani’s victory was the perfect 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.
“I heard people say my name every 10 seconds, it’s a day I will never forget,” world number one Alaphilippe, who last year won the mountains classification and claimed two stage wins, told reporters.
For all his class, Alaphilippe will, however, not be a general classification contender this year as he is more of a one-day classic rider.
“I think in this year he’s here to do exactly what he’s doing and he’s doing it absolutely brilliantly, and I can only stand back and applaud what he did yesterday,” said Team Ineos principal Dave Brailsford, the man behind the British outfit’s six Tour titles in the last seven years.
A three-man breakaway featuring Frenchman Yoann Offredo, Swiss Michael Schaer and Belgian Frederik Backaert was kept on a tight leash by the peloton and they were all reined in 16 kilometres from the finish as Deceuninck-Quick Step worked to set up Viviani’s victorious sprint.
The main contenders, including defending champion Geraint Thomas, had a quiet day in the peloton.
Wednesday’s fifth stage is a 175.5km hilly ride from St Die des Vosges to Colmar.
Reporting by Julien Pretot, editing by Ed Osmond