To say that André Greipel will have the flatter stages of the Giro all to himself would be far too presumptuous, writes Anthony Tan.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

To say that André Greipel will have the flatter stages of the Giro all
to himself would be far too presumptuous, writes Anthony Tan.

If
one accepts that Mark Cavendish is the best sprinter in the world, then
it's logical to accept his team-mate André Greipel as the second-best.


However, after a tooth op. gone bad, it has been the once-unbeatable
Cavendish who has proven he can be defeated, while Greipel, before a
Grand Tour pedal stroke turned, is already in double figures. Cav' is at
two.

After Saturday's 8.4 kilometre Amsterdam time trial to
open this year's Giro d'Italia, the following two Dutch stages have
'sprint finish' written all over them.

Will Greipel continue his
winning ways, or will it be Farrar – the man who Cavendish described at
last year's Giro as "an incredibly nice guy […], so it's a shame to say
he's not a super, super good sprinter" – who will continue where he left
off after his Scheldeprijs win, in what was a very solid Spring
Classics?

Or will it be one of the 'old boys' (not so much
age-wise, more they've been around a while) – namely Alessandro
Petacchi, Robbie McEwen and Baden Cooke (remember, Oscar Freire isn't
racing due to sinusitis) that will come good?

If either of the
aforementioned trio notch just one stage win, I'm sure they'll be happy
with that, and consider their job done at the Giro.

Memories of
the first road stage of the 2007 Tour de France are still vivid as
yesterday. Just when people had begun to write Robbie off, out he comes
after crashing 20km from the line to best Thor Hushovd and Tom Boonen
and win one of the most memorable sprint finishes in TdF history: 'Twas a
true Canterbury tale.

It took a brave (stupid?) scribe to write
"Robbie McEwen's best days are behind him" again.

He'll turn 38
in under two months from now, and it was a few years earlier than this
that another sprinting great, Mario Cipollini, showed signs of slowing;
2003 was really the Tuscan's last vintage year, aged 36.

But
McEwen, for my measure, is far more disciplined than Cipo, who was all
natural talent, power and class – along with a giant-sized serve of
braggadocio. Discipline was rarely part of the overall equation.

I
still remember how emotional McEwen was after the final stage of the
Tour Down Under. He hadn't ridden a stage race for seven months, he
didn't win a stage all week that was dominated by Greipel – yet by the
finish, he couldn't have been more satisfied.

"I had a broken leg
last year, a couple of operations, a lot of problems, and it's been a
very, very long road back. And to come to finish, I think third [he
actually finished fourth] in the Tour Down Under and [to] have
consistent results all week, I'm just over the moon with it, it's just
fantastic," he said, almost choking on his words.

Asked earlier
that week about Greipel, McEwen said: "At the moment he's undeniably the
strongest sprinter – but it doesn't mean you're going to win every
stage.

"I just have to be quicker on the day. You don't win races
against the best sprinters when you're maybe at 80 percent power. It's
that last 6 or 8 percent that makes the difference."

'Cookie's' a
little bit in the same boat, though for different reasons.

Just
as his Saxo Bank DS Brad McGee has been helping newbie Richie Porte with
his time trialing (the fruits of which were seen at the Tour de
Romandie, where Porte won a 23km TT by almost half a minute), he's also
been guiding Cooke back on the right path.

It's worth repeating
that he won that green jersey aged just 24 at the 2003 Tour de France,
which tells you Cooke, 31 now, is still very much in his cycling prime.

Cooke
told me last September, having just signed for Saxo: "I have to rely on
my strength now a lot more. I don't feel I'm as fast at the moment, but
I don't think it's something that couldn't come back.

"I think
I've still got it there in the legs. Brad and I have already got a few
things in place, and we're talking about some different training we can
do. So don't be surprised if I'm sprinting a lot faster next year."

And,
of course, it would be remiss of me to end this blog without mentioning
Team Sky's Antipodean Connection, Greg Henderson and Chris Sutton, who
worked their magic en route to a stage apiece at the Tour Down Under.

I'd
put a few Euros on them doing it again at the Giro – even if the
embattled currency is worth increasingly less of late.