Tour de France: Viviani storms bunch sprint to win Stage 4
Italy's Elia Viviani celebrates on the podium after winning the fourth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 214 kilometers (133 miles) with start in Reims and finish in Nancy, France, Tuesday, July 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
NANCY, France -- Italian rider Elia Viviani claimed his first career stage win on the Tour de France after storming a bunch sprint on Tuesday.
Viviani was ideally set up by the Deceuninck-Quick Step leadout train in the finale and made the most of the slight uphill finish in the eastern city of Nancy. He used his considerable power to edge Alexander Kristoff and Caleb Ewan and claim the fourth stage of the three-week race.
The 213.5-kilometre (133-mile) flat route from Reims to Nancy did not pose any major difficulty and was a perfect opportunity for sprinters to get a stage win.
Viviani's teammate Julian Alaphilippe, the first Frenchman to wear the yellow jersey in five years after his solo victory in Stage 3, kept the overall lead, with no change at the top of the overall standings.
Both men hugged warmly after their team produced a second straight stage win.
Kristoff opened up the sprint in the final stretch but could not hold off Viviani on the left side of the road.
Viviani has now posted stage wins at all three Grand Tours, including four at the Giro and three at the Spanish Vuelta.
Alaphilippe was cheered throughout the stage. After several dozen fans greeted him at his team hotel in the morning, supporters lining streets across the small villages of eastern France wildly cheered him on, shouting "Loulou, Loulou!" -- the Frenchman's nickname.
Alaphilippe enjoyed a day free of pressure, well protected in the main pack by teammates, and then played a role in the final sprint to launch Viviani's final effort.
Defending champion Geraint Thomas and other main contenders enjoyed a calm day too, just making sure they rode at the front to avoid crashes or splits.
Under bright sunshine in Reims, three riders attacked from the off.
On long stretches of flat roads, Yoann Offredo, Frederik Backaert and Michael Sch├ñr built a lead that never exceeded 3 minutes, 40 seconds as the peloton kept them on a leash for 180 kilometres before sprinters' teams organized the pursuit and sped up the pace.
The trio was eventually caught with 17 kilometres left, in the small Cote de Maron climb, leaving the spotlights on the fastest men of the peloton.