Blazin' Saddles

Greip-hell over with win

Blazin' Saddles

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Andre Greipel left it late but finally won that elusive "big win" that his HTC-Columbia team-mate Mark Cavendish has long been giving him beef for.

Winning stage 18 in Brescia was the German's top priority after dragging himself through the mountains in a bid to keep his Giro dream alive.

With two summit finishes on the horizon ahead of the final time trial in Verona, this was Greipel's last chance to make his mark.

As it was, the 27-year-old won without any ado after latching on to the Sky train and coasting to the line to break his duck.

Arms aloft on the podium, Grandpa Greipel's grin was so wide Blazin' Saddles was worried his false teeth might have spilled out onto the surrounding photographers.

It was a grin of relief more than anything else - for failing to win on what is arguably the second biggest of the major tours would have given Cav a whole season's worth of sarky jibes at Greipel's expense.

Cav supporters may stress that Greipel only managed to win in the absence of the race's best sprinter, the American Tyler Farrar, a rider who has still yet to win a stage on the Tour de France and someone who has never beaten Cavendish in a ding-dong dash to the line.

And yet that is, in a way, immaterial. Yes, Greipel not winning would have been the biggest surprise (not to mention humiliation) but the sticking point is not that he won, but that he was there in the first place.

Greipel has ridden in mostly shocking conditions through the Alps and Dolomites over the last week; he has completed a time trial up a snow-capped Plan de Corones; he has beaten the Zoncolan. And he did all this just to put himself in a position where he could win on Thursday.

If that isn't class, then Saddles is a banana. Farrar couldn't hack the heat. Would Cavendish have even attempted to survive such a brutal schedule without running off the to the dentist with his tail between his legs? In the light of the way he performed alongside Thor Hushovd over the high stuff in last year's Tour, it's doubtful.

So, chapeau Andre - not for winning stage 18, but for having the physical strength and strength of character to simply be there in the first place. BS lays a wager he'll ride all the way to Verona now.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Greipel was the fastest by far. Congrats. I gave it everything but couldn't beat Gringo." Fourth-placed Greg Henderson teaches BS a new nickname for the German Gorilla.

Follow Blazin' Saddles throughout the Giro on www.twitter.com/saddleblaze.

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