Germany’s Tour Down Under winner Andre Greipel recorded his first ever stage win in a major Tour when he landed the 17th leg of the Tour of Italy on Wednesday.
The 25-year-old High Road cyclist edged out British teammate Mark Cavendish, who has already won two stages this year.
Spain’s Tour de France titleholder Alberto Contador retained the overall leader’s pink jersey with just four stages remaining before they cross the finishing line.
Both Greipel and Cavendish, who won Commonwealth gold for his birthplace of the Isle of Man on the track in 2006 in Melbourne, raised their arms in triumph as they crossed the line almost in unison.
Cavendish had worked his heart out for his teammate and on several occasions stopped Italian rider Daniele Bennati from overtaking them — Bennati eventually finished third.
Greipel acknowledged that his victory was not just a solo effort.
“After the finish line, everybody in the team was delighted,” the German said. “Cavendish as well. It is a team victory, one doesn’t win a sprint without it being so.”
Contador for his part was happy that it had not been too testing a day even after it came following a rest day.
“It was a quiet day,” said Contador, who will be unable to defend his Tour de France title as his Astana team have not been invited by the race organizers as they have had several high profile drug scandals in recent years.
“I felt well, I didn’t have any allergy problems. As for the final few days? Both Riccardo Ricco [second, 41 seconds behind] and Gilberto Simoni [third, over a minute in arrears] are dangerous. But Simoni has more experience,” said Contador, referring to the 36-year-old Simoni’s two previous Giro victories.
Ricco, though, gave Contador a boost as he revealed he was not in the best of health.
“I am a little troubled by bronchitis today [Wednesday] and had trouble breathing,” Ricco said. “Last night [Tuesday] I could not sleep. I was still coughing during the stage. But even if it is the cruel reality, I have no intention of giving up.”
Russia’s Mikhail Ignatiev had led a three man breakaway — they had an 8 minute lead at one point — with him being the last of the trio to be swept up just 4km from the line.