Elia Viviani has had one day marked on his 2024 diary for several years now.
The Italian returned to Ineos Grenadiers in 2022 with the 2024 Paris Olympic Games at the forefront of his mind, knowing the British outfit could best accommodate his goals for it.
This year Viviani is preparing to be selected for and feature in what will be his career fourth Olympics, aiming to medal at sport’s biggest tournament for a third consecutive time.
He wants to compete on the track in the Omnium, his pet event, and the Madison, and is also training for the team pursuit to improve his selection chances. Italy is a strong favourite for gold in the men’s TP.
“The goal is for sure to try again to go for gold. Omnium is the main day for me. 8 August is that day of my season,” Viviani told Cyclingnews at the Tour Down Under, where he opened his 2024 WorldTour campaign.
“The Olympics year is always special. As soon as you come close to the event, you feel this special moment is coming.”
The 34-year-old knows success on the track, which is perhaps part of the reason he keeps coming back to it. He won gold in the Omnium at the Rio Games and bronze in Tokyo.
Viviani doesn’t have to look too far for an insight on whom he believes will be his biggest rival in the men’s omnium either, naming trade teammate Ethan Hayter (Team GB) as the main man to beat. It goes without saying that in the Ineos Grenadiers team bus the pair don’t talk track tactics.
“But it’s going to be good to have a teammate as a rival in that event,” said Viviani.
The Italian believes that GB’s performance in the recent European Track Championships, where GB secured their first gold medal in the men’s TP in nine years, is indicative of the shape of things to come when it comes to rivals. And regarding Hayter specifically, he says, “I think, Ethan in top shape is the guy who is difficult even to follow. For sure Ethan is the man to beat.”
A gold medal track bid at the Olympics is part of the reason Vivian opted to commence his 2024 campaign in Australia, where he is embarking on a month-long block of racing on the road and in the velodrome.
Viviani struggled with the heat on stage one of the Tour Down Under but was in the mix of the sprint finishes thereafter, finishing second to Sam Welsford (Bora-Hansgrohe) on stage three. Ineos Grenadiers was unable to match Bora-Hansgrohe’s lead-out the following day but not through want of trying. Viviani will line up at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Victoria on the weekend before returning to Adelaide for the UCI Track Nations Cup.
“I work really hard during the winter and [even] in my best season never dominate [at the Tour Down Under]. One stage win is the maximum I have taken at the Tour Down Under, so I’m not worried about that,” he said regarding his performance in South Australia.
“Cadel Evans is one of my favourite races. Every time I have participated, I’ve been fighting for the win or like always there in the top 10. So I’m really focused on that.”
In South Australia, Viviani was able to count on the horsepower of Filippo Ganna and highly touted teenager Josh Tarling, as well as the expertise of veteran Ben Swift, whom he sees as an important aid to his endeavours on the road this season.
Whilst the Olympics is his main, overarching goal of 2024, Viviani also has ambitions to increase his victory tally and be selected for the Giro d’Italia.
“Our race program doesn’t match really with all the other guys who are here,” Viviani said.
“My race program will continue with the UAE [Tour] and then the Volta a Catalunya, and Tour of Romandie just to try and make the selection for the Giro. It’s not easy, the team as we know is super-strong, and it really wants to put on a strong performance at the Giro.”
“So, my first goal is making the selection for the Giro and after the Giro, focus on the Olympics,” he said.
“I will go in UAE [Tour] just with Swifty. But the confidence I have with Swifty is really good – he’s the same age, we’ve spent a lot of years together in the peloton. He can be the guy who helps me much this year.”