Columbia-HTC sprinter Andre Greipel will start tomorrow’s thirteenth stage with a 24 point advantage over closest rival Tom Boonen (Quick Step) in the green jersey contest.
The big German has impressed thus far, winning stages four and five and placing fourth, fourth and fifth on others.
Saturday and Sunday’s stages are extremely mountains, but from Monday onwards the race becomes flatter and he will have a chance to chase more success and bolster that points advantage.
Directeur sportif Brian Holm said on Friday that he was feeling upbeat about Greipel's chances. "The team don’t have big ambitions for the mountain stages as you can imagine," he told Cyclingnews. "But it looks like there could be a few more bunch sprints and probably a good chance that Greipel can keep the green jersey.
"He started this race planning on going all the way to Madrid. He is riding well, he is even climbing without problems. He is pretty fit."
American rival Tyler Farrar (Garmin Slipstream) won stage eleven in the race but then pulled out. He had been second in the points standings that evening, just seven points behind Greipel, and his withdrawal to prepare for the worlds made things easier in terms of his points lead. However it also means that there will be one less sprinter’s team pulling on the front and helping to bring back breakaways.
Cyclingnews asked Holm if that would make things easier or harder for Columbia in the days ahead. "I honestly don’t think about it," he answered. "There are still some good sprinters here, it is not easy for Greipel to win a bunch sprint. But we will see…we will do what we got to do for the sprints, we will see how it works out. We will also go for the bonus seconds as well, it makes sense to take them."