Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) said arrivederci to the Giro d'Italia with a third stage victory at stage 12 in Bibione. He defending his move to close the door on Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) in the final sprint, along with his decision to quit the race and head home to rest up and prepare for the Tour de France and other goals that lay ahead in his long season of racing.
He insisted the decision to leave the Giro, even while leading the points classification and wearing the red jersey, was not from a lack of respect to the Giro d'Italia organisation.
"Of course I have a lot of respect for the Giro d'Italia," he argued.
"But I had a really difficult start to the season with injuries and lack of training. I fought hard to be in shape for the Giro. Before we started we said that stage 12 would be my last stage, no matter what happens. I didn't really want to leave while wearing the red jersey but the team and myself made decision together because I'm a human, not a machine.
"I was already fighting hard on Tuesday's stage to Sestola and now I have to prepare for my up coming goals. Looking at my programme from last year, we saw it was best preparation for the season, so I'm trying to stick to this plan with the team and my trainer.
"I understand the fans might not be happy with my decision it but I hope to come back to fight for the red jersey one time."
Greipel signed off with arguably his best sprint of this year's Giro d'Italia. His Lotto Soudal teammates controlled the break of the day and then lead the peloton on the two twisting eight-kilometre finishing circuits around the narrow streets of the Bibione holiday resort.
"The team did an exception job all day to make sprint happen. We had a plan to hit the front and stay on the front and then we had power to make the lead out too," Greipel explained in detail.
"My roommate Jurgen Roelandts let me into the final corner and I backed off a wheel a little to then accelerate from his slipstream. I was happy to hold everyone off to the line."
Ewan lamented Greipel's move across the road to close down the line along the barriers but Greipel dismissed any suggestion that he had done anything wrong.
"To be honest we knew there was a cross wind coming from the left side, so I'd already decided that I'd chose the right barrier," he pointed out, completing his lesson in sprinting to his younger rival.
"I opened up the sprint first and went all the way to the right because I could chose my line. Caleb just chose the wrong side. I saw that there was somebody on my right side near the barrier but I was sure there was no way through. I've been a rider for a long time and so I know not to open up along the barrier in a sprint."
No underdog compared to Kittel and Cavendish
Greipel is the currently the gentleman sprinter of the peloton, rather than the Gorilla, as he is often nicknamed, with his power and speed on the bike in contrast to his inner calm and softly spoken voice. However, even Greipel has his pride and it emerged when he was asked what he felt about having won his 20th Grand Tour stage and having won at least one stage in the last ten Grand Tour he has ridden in his career.
"I'm proud of this to reach what I reached so far with the support of team. I'm always a little bit the underdog but to win 20 Grand Tour stages is not so bad for the underdog," Greipel said, before metaphorically slamming the door on his way out of the Giro d'Italia.
"The media often describes me as the underdog (when talking about sprinting). I often hear Kittel's and Cavendish's name but not my name…"
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.