Andre Greipel is unlikely to compete at the Giro d’Italia this year with his Lotto Belisol management citing Mark Cavendish’s arguably taxing 2013 run as one reason.
The Giro may offer more than a stage win to sprinters in its first three days across Northern Ireland and Ireland with the maglia rosa also a possibility. But it doesn't seem enough to entice the German giant, who has already won six races this season and stands to be a serious contender in some classics this spring.
Cavendish typically starts the Italian Grand Tour for sporting and commercial purposes. He won five stages last season, in the absence of key rivals Greipel and Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano), and the points jersey with the aid of then new Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammates.
However, Lotto Belisol manager Marc Sergeant suggests the British national champion's success there may have cost him energy at the Tour de France and is as such reluctant to publicly entertain the idea of Greipel assembling on the start line in Belfast. The 31 year old usually races at the Tour of Belgium, which coincides with the Giro and is of obvious importance to his ProTeam.
“I was tempted to put him in the Giro,” Sergeant told Cycling Weekly. “On the other hand I took the example of Mark Cavendish last year. I think he missed that little bit of freshness at the Tour to be," he briefly pauses, "the Marcel Kittel of the Tour.
"Let’s face it, Kittel was the best sprinter in the Tour last year. If he can confirm it, OK, we have to live with it but from time to time we have to beat him, or Cavendish or Greipel. We managed two times already [at January's Tour Down Under]. Of course Kittel is young. His team is there and they have a good attitude. They never put [John] Degenkolb and him in the same race, except for the Tour."
The official Giro d’Italia Twitter account has referred to the quadruple Tour de France stage winner Kittel’s participation at the race but Giant-Shimano clarified to CW the 25 year old is at this time on a shortlist. His teammate Degenkolb headlined the squad in Italy in 2013 and won a stage.
The race this year begins with a 21.7km team time trial and is followed by two relatively flat stages. A team time trial Grande Partenza in 2011 saw Cavendish’s then HTC-Highroad teammate Marco Pinotti take the first pink jersey of the race, which fell to the Manxman the next day after a sprint-friendly stage.
Whether the 28 year old or another can replicate that this year is subject to debate. Recent Hall of Fame inductee Stephen Roche believes a fast-man won't take the race leader's jersey in the opening days, referring mainly to the team time trial that includes a short kick to Stormont House. And he may be right, especially if you also consider the possiblity of strong coastal winds that could shatter the peloton in the second stage.
However, on paper, and weather variables aside, the basic course description is similar to that of 2011 and it's not far-fetched to entertain that the Giro, like the Tour de France this year, could see a sprinter leading the race early on.
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Credit: Graham Watson
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