EILAT, Israel (Reuters) - Italian Elia Viviani of the Quick-Step Floors team sealed his second consecutive Giro d’Italia stage win on Sunday when he was the fastest in a bunch sprint finish in the third stage in Eilat.
Sam Bennett of Bora-Hansgrohe was in the lead with a kilometre of the 229km stage left but Viviani showcased his impressive power to close in on the Irishman before the final corner and he crossed the finish line first.
Britain’s Chris Froome advanced to 19th place in the overall standings but remained 38 seconds off the pace. He finished in the leading bunch of 93 riders to cross the line in five hours, two minutes and nine seconds.
Viviani, who won the second stage after a similar comeback on Saturday, finished ahead of Sacha Modolo (Cannondale-Drapac). Bennett had to settle for third.
Viviani, who took omnium gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics, said his stage wins proved that his hard work was paying off.
“I have always raced without thinking about my competitors, I just focus on myself and my training,” he said.
“To be at the top level and you have to win stages in grand tours and classics, I was looking for this maturity at the Giro and I think I have demonstrated that I am at the top.”
Jakub Mareczko (Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia) and Danny van Poppel (Lotto NL - Jumbo) rounded out the top five.
Israel Cycling Academy’s Guillaume Boivin was cheered on by the home crowd as the Canadian, along with Marco Frapporti (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) and Enrico Barbin (Bardiani-CSF), led the race from the start.
The trio were swept up by the peloton in the closing stages and finished well behind the top 10 in the last stage to be held in Israel on an overcast day in which the group rode through stark desert landscapes, with a hot, swirling wind blowing.
Australian BMC Racing Team rider Rohan Dennis retained the overall leader’s pink jersey, while Barbin held on to the blue jersey after he was second-fastest to the summit of the Cat 4 climb.
“It’s the first time I have ever held on to it (the pink jersey), it’s quite special to have it while you’re in Italy and the goal now is to keep it,” Dennis said.
With the Giro’s “Big Start” in Israel complete, the race returns to Italy for the fourth stage between Catania and Caltagirone in Sicily on Tuesday. Monday is a rest day.
Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru and Ori Lewis in Eilat, editing by Pritha Sarkar