Germany's André Greipel (HTC - Columbia) gives it his all in the Giro's opening time trial.
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HTC-Columbia sprinter within striking distance of Giro lead after good time trial
Andre Greipel (HTC-Columbia) had a difficult start to the Giro d'Italia after being struck by a stomach virus before the race. But thanks to finishing just 18 seconds behind stage one winner Bradley Wiggins, the German sprinter is now within reach of the pink jersey.
Time bonuses of 20, 12 and eight seconds are awarded to the first three riders on road race stages in the Giro d'Italia, and on Sunday there are also six, four and two second bonuses to be awarded at an intermediate sprint in Houten after 154.7 kilometres. If he can win the stage, Greipel is almost certain to take the pink jersey from Wiggins.
Wiggins' Team Sky teammate Greg Henderson stands the best chance of denying the German. Henderson put up the best time of the sprinters in the 8.4 kilometre time trial on Saturday, finishing fifth, just five seconds slower than Wiggins. If he can win the intermediate sprint or finish at least in the top three on the stage, he, and not Greipel, would pull on the maglia rosa in Utrecht.
Greipel is hopeful his strong and highly experienced HTC-Columbia teammates can help him to the stage two win.
"Wiggins is a world track champion. He's a deserved winner. I was a little bit sick in the last two days but I'm better now and so I'm looking forward to the next few days,' said Greipel after finishing the time trial on Saturday.
"We'll see what happens on Sunday's stage. It's not sure there will be a bunch sprint because it can be really windy in the Netherlands and there are a lot of corners. It will be a really tough race and it will be really nervous."
"I'm feeling better but I'm not back to my best yet. Stomach problems are not the best thing for cyclists. I couldn't train on Friday, so I'm happy with my ride in the time trial."
Greipel will face some of the fastest sprinters in the world in the sprints at the Giro, but has the advantage of having a powerful HTC-Columbia to help provide a high-speed lead out. He can count on the support of Marcel Sieberg, Frantisek Rabon, Adam Hansen, Matt Goss, Michael Albasini and Marco Pinotti. The entire squad is well drilled and will provide their German teammate with a strong foundation for his final sprint.
"There are a lot of others sprinters here at the Giro, experienced guys like Robbie McEwen, Alessandro Petacchi and Graeme Brown. But we have a really good team for the lead out and so I think we'll do well," said Greipel. "They're dedicated to helping and so we can hopefully lead out the sprint and I can take advantage of their hard work. I hope I can pay back the team for the faith they put in me."
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