For a sprinter there's arguably no worse place to finish than second on a stage, and after missing out in the Giro d'Italia's stage 2 in the Netherlands, France's Arnaud Demare (FDJ) was understandably frustrated by taking the runner’s up spot again four days later in Benevento on stage 5.
The biggest success of Demare's career to date was Milano-Sanremo this spring, but after triumphing in Italy's biggest one day Classic in March, in Italy's biggest stage race in May, so far it's been a very different story.
On both occasions, the FDJ sprinter has been clearly defeated by a German sprinter, with Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) beating Demare by a wide margin in Nijgemen on stage two. Eighth at Arnhem on stage three, when the Giro reached Italy and in a very different, uphill sprint in Benevento, Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) proved the fastest by a sizeable gap again.
"It was well-deserved for Greipel, but I'm disappointed to be second again," Demare told reporters as he wheeled to a halt after the finish line. "It's a pity, my legs feel good, but I've not come here to finish second, I've come here to win and today was a good opportunity."
Demare said the combination of waiting a little too long to launch his own sprint and Greipel's superbly sustained early acceleration had proved lethal for his chances. "He took us by surprise when he went so soon and he didn't crack, that shows he's really strong," Demare said. "On that kind of false flat, I would have waited for longer, but he went for it.
"It had been a really chaotic finale, and there was a big hesitation when a Lampre rider got caught near the finish. I was waiting 50 metres too long to go for it, I waited a bit more and that was it."
For Bardiani-CSF rider Sonny Colbrelli, after finishing well down in the Netherlands bunch gallops - 43rd and 152nd on stages 2 and 3 - third at Benevento was his best result to date in the Giro this year, and indeed the Italian's best ever placing in the Giro d'Italia sprint stage in a five year career.
Colbrelli is perhaps much more at home on more challenging sprint finishes, given his previous top placing in the Giro was sixth in a hilly stage into Fiuggi last year. His Benevento result continues a run of good form this spring after he took ninth in Milano-Sanremo and led in the bunch third in the Amstel Gold for his best ever WorldTour Classics result.
Colbrelli did not beat around the bush, either, when asked about his chances against Greipel. "He was as unbeatable as Kittel in the first few days," Colbrelli said. After missing Rein Taaramae's crash in the last corner "by a whisker", "I was too far ahead in the last part [before the final sprint] and then I got overtaken by Greipel, I can only congratulate him."
"When Greipel went for it, he charged away and there was nothing to do. Being that far ahead was my mistake, though. But at least my legs felt good."
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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