Sunday's route was the second longest of the 21-stage race and wrapped up the three-day start in Israel, the first time a cycling Grand Tour has been held outside Europe.
With a bonus of three seconds available at each of the race's intermediate sprints, BMC put in a huge turn to set Dennis up for the sprint, with Viviani close behind, although he was just stretching his legs for the real prize another 60km down the road. "There was a blatant deviation, but I came through fine, so there's no need to cause a polemic", Viviani said.
Trailing in his wake were Polish-born Italian Jakub Mareczko and Ireland's Sam Bennett.
But it was Dennis took the overall lead with a wonderful piece of opportunism and teamwork as he took the pink jersey 24-hours later than he and his team had earlier hoped.
"It was just too early, especially when you're coming out of a corner that slow", Bennett said. "But the final straight was good for me". "It is the first time I have kept it more than one day", Dennis said afterwards.
"I think the third week and even the second week is still a big unknown for me. I saw guys do things like this and I always thought that was really fantastic so to be a part of that little group is a real honor".
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Asked about having a target on their back as defending champions, Milicic said: "This is a challenge that we won't shy away from". I am happy we have broken inside 100 but the way ranking works is very, very tricky so I don't give it too much importance.
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Overnight leader Peter Malnati, one ahead going into round three, dropped into a share of 16th after two double bogeys in a 75. The Northern Irishman was only one shot inside the cut mark at the halfway stage, along with Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods .
Four-time Tour de France victor Chris Froome, who bloodied his right knee and ripped his shorts and jersey in a training crash before Friday's opening leg, finished safely in the middle of the pack.
The Sunday race, which kicks off at 12:30, follows a Friday time trial in Jerusalem and a dash down the coastal plain on Saturday that marked the first time a major European bike contest was held outside of the Continent.
The Israel Cycling Academy squad was making its maiden Grand Tour appearance and enjoyed the sight of one of its riders, Canadian Guillaume Boivin, leading for much of the stage before he was passed by the sprinters in the windy descent into Eilat.
The Italian rider repeated his strategy once again of sprinting from the back of the pack to take the lead as they crossed the line of the 229km stage from Be'er Sheva to Eilat, Israel. That didn't happen, but their actions made for a hectic and chaotic finish, leaving every rider on their own.
But what do the full standings look like after the latest day of racing?
When I found out a few days ago that I was off third last today, in between Chris Froome and former world time trial champion Tony Martin, my cousin Eric reassured me that at least if I wasn't going well the cameras would probably be focused on the other two anyway. The Giro ends in Rome on May 27.