André Greipel did what he came to this Giro d’Italia to do, it just took him longer than expected.
The big German sprinter survived a rough early start to the Giro when he got sick, but made it through the Dolomites and out-kicked the surviving sprinters in their final shot in what’s been a brutally hard Giro for the fast men in the peloton, winning a stage that will quiet the critics and give him some breathing space as he moves into the remainder of the season.
“That was my main goal. I came here to try to win a stage and be the leader of the team. I had to stay in the race,” Greipel said. “The whole team was here to support me. I had to stay for them. They always give their best for me, no matter what race.”
Whether that includes a ticket to the Tour de France with HTC-Columbia remains to be seen, but at least teammate Mark Cavendish can’t say that Greipel came to the Giro and didn’t win a stage.
“If the team wants me to go to the Tour, then I will go,” Greipel said. “(The Tour) is important for riders. I have never raced the Tour, so it is a goal that I want to reach once. If it is not this year, then I hope in the coming years.”
The sprinter teams kept it fast in the relatively short, fast ride from Levico Terme to Brescia. Greipel and his team took full advantage of what was likely their last opportunity for a field sprint in this Giro, while the GC favorites had relatively easy day in the peloton.
Race leader David Arroyo and other leaders on the GC all finished in the front pack; the GC battle will resume Friday.
The day’s route featured no rated climbs, although there was a small 250-meter rise early in the stage before a descent then a largely flat race to Brescia.
Two riders escaped from the pack about 30km into the race:
• Alan Marangoni (Colnago-CSF), 119th at 2:29:23
• Oliver Kaisen (Omega Pharma), 124th at 2:45:16
Under uncertain skies, the pair hammered out a maximum gap of just over three minutes ahead of the pack led by Sky and HTC-Columbia, looking to take advantage of perhaps the last chance for a field sprint in the Giro.
But when the pace in the pack picked up, Kaisen and Marangoni shoveled on some more coal, too, keeping their gap above a minute going into the final 10k and 17 seconds at 5k to go.
Marangoni attacked Kaisen with 2k to go, but it wasn’t near enough, as the raging peloton sucked him up before the 1k kite.
Sky and HTC-Columbia battled to set up their sprint trains on the final 10k, and HTC-Columbia got the upper hand, delivering Greipel to his first stage win in this Giro.
Garmin-Transitions’ Julian Dean was second. Dean is normally Tyler Farrar’s leadout man, but stepped in for Farrar, who dropped out of the race last week.
Arroyo won’t give up without a fight
Arroyo and the other GC faves enjoyed what will be their last – and perhaps what was truly the first easy day – of this Giro.
With two brutal climbing stages and Sunday’s final TT, everything is up for grabs.
Arroyo kept the pink jersey as there were no major shakeups in the overall standings.
“After the transition stage, and after so much talk about it, we’re finally arriving to the Mortirolo,” Arroyo said. “It’s going to be a beautiful day, to fight for this Giro and I hope to have the same sensations that I’ve had up to now.”
Friday’s stage 19 is 195km from Brescia to Aprica. It starts out easy enough, with a couple of hours of mainly flat roads past Lake Iseo to Édolo. Then the climbing begins, first with a 15-percent pitch to start then the gradual 13km ascent to Aprica, where the finish line is placed. But to reach it a second (and final) time, the survivors have to scale the 11km climb to Trivigno (the first 7km averages 9.5 percent) and then the infamous 12km Passo del Mortirolo (whose middle half averages 12.3 percent and opens with an 18-percent pitch). After a second hair-raising downhill, the 195km stage repeats the final haul up from Édolo to Aprica.
(Related: 2010 Giro d’Italia route).
- After the departures of three riders on Wednesday’s stage, the peloton was down to 151 riders who started stage 18
- 1. Andre Greipel (GER) HTC-Columbia, 143km in 3:14:59
- 2. Julian Dean (NZL) Garmin-Transitions at 0:00
- 3. Tiziano Dall’antonia (ITA) Liquigas-Doimo at 0:00
- 4. Gregory Henderson (NZL) Team Sky at 0:00
- 5. Danilo Hondo (GER) Lampre-Farnese Vini at 0:00
- 1. David Arroyo Duran (ESP) Caisse D’Epargne
- 2. Ivan Basso (ITA) Liquigas-Doimo at 2:27
- 3. Richie Porte (AUS) Team Saxo Bank at 2:44
- 4. Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC Racing Team at 3:09
- 5. Carlos Sastre Candil (ESP) Cervélo TestTeam at 4:41