Like all the sprinters, Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) struggled during the hilly tenth stage of the Giro d'Italia. He has used his muscle and power to win two sprint stages so far but had to haul his bulk over the numerous climbs on the road to Sestola so that he could have a shot at victory possibly on Wednesday's stage to Asolo, and more certainly on Thursday's pan-flat stage to Bibione, north of Venice.
Greipel finished in one of the Giro d'Italia gruppetto, 27:33 down on stage winner Giulio Ciccone (Bardiani-CSF). The 21-year-old Italian neo-pro raced for 5:44:32; Greipel suffered for almost 30 minutes longer. After making it to the finish, he also had to climb the steps of the official race podium after taking the lead in the red jersey points competition.
"Today's not the best day to understand how I'm feeling but I made it to the finish today without any real trouble. For sure this Giro has been good for us, I'm happy and we hope it continues," he told Cyclingnews before heading to his team hotel.
On Monday's rest day Greipel and several of his Lotto Soudal teammates took on the hectic Florence traffic to visit the Duomo in the centre of the Renaissance city, with the German posting a photo of himself in front of the Duomo on Twitter. He perhaps appreciated little of the rolling Apennines today but knows what is to come on the stages to Asolo and Bibione.
"You always have to find some inspiration even in a Grand Tour and Florence is a special city, so it was worth the visit. It's good to take some memories home and not only about cycling," he said.
"I think tomorrow (Wednesday's stage) is going to be a hard day because the finale is pretty tough, so I don't really expect there will be a bunch sprint. We haven't planned our tactics yet but we'll see what happens and be ready just in case the race comes back together. For sure I think the finish in Bibione will be a chance for the sprinters."
Greipel was referring to the late climb in the final before Asolo and then flat stage to Bibione.
The Forcella Mostaccin climb - 2.9km at 9% comes just 20km from Asolo and is a perfect launch pad for attacks before a rolling finale to the finish outside the Selle Italia headquarters. However Greipel and Lotto Soudal have shown they are capable of handling some climbs and then controlling the peloton, so it will be fascinating to see how the finale unfolds.
The stage to Bibione is pan flat, with the high point just 38m above sea level. The only problems of the day could come on the two laps of an 8km finishing circuit in the centre of the holiday resort. Each circuit includes 15 corners.
With Marcel Kittel having already quit the Giro d'Italia and the likes of Elia Viviani (Team Sky) and Jakub Mareczko (Wilier-Southeast) having also quit, Greipel knows he has an excellent chance of taking a third sprint victory after his success in Benevento and Foligno. However, he hinted it could also be the last sprint he contests before also heading home to recover and begin to think about other goals later in the season, including the Tour de France and world championships in Qatar.
"I think there are possibly some other sprint stages in the Giro but it could be the last sprint for me…" he said with respect for the Giro d'Italia but honesty about his future in the race.