Greipel takes sprinters' last hurrah at Giro
Andre Greipel, Giro d'Italia 2010, stage 18
HTC-Columbia rider Andre Greipel has won the 18th stage of the Giro d'Italia in Brescia.
The German saw off Julian Dean (Garmin-Transitions) and Tiziano dall'Antonia (Liquigas) with his powerful sprint at the end of the race's shortest road stage, covering 156 kilometres from Levico Terme to Brescia.
This victory ends three weeks of frustration for Greipel, who was under pressure after missing out in the race's earlier sprint skirmishes.
Olivier Kaisen (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Alan Marangoni (Colnago-CSF Inox) made up the day's breakaway.
The bunch kept them close at hand on the day's flat fare, which took them north alongside the picturesque shores of Lake Garda.
Despite not exceeding a lead of three minutes, the breakaway duo made a brave go of things. Kaisen was only engulfed by the bunch with three kilometres to go, Marangoni following suit soon after.
This short stage represented a last hurrah for the sprinters still in the race - the likes of Farrar, Petacchi, McEwen and Weylandt have all said arrivederci to this year's Giro - and HTC-Columbia and Sky knew it. Their leadout trains vied for control of the peloton, with the Wiggins-led British team coming out on top to set things up for Greg Henderson.
However, Andre Greipel was well-placed in the New Zealander's slipstream and jumped with 250 metres to go, accelerating away from closest rival Dean to take the second Giro stage win of his career.
After illness, mistakes and near misses, this was a race-salvaging win for the HTC-Columbia man. The relief was clear in his celebration and frenzied hugs to teammates.
"The team always supported me and kept me in the race," Greipel said. "We took the responsibility with Sky to chase the breakaway down. Sieberg supported me at the front. We had everything, rain, sun, wind, however, we had wide roads in the finale to catch the escape.
"I am a human being, not a machine," Greipel said of his winless run. "Everyone gets sick once and it was bad for me that I got sick at the start. I lost weight and did not have the punch for the sprint. I got better day by day, but we had some escapes that we could not catch."
David Arroyo retained the maglia rosa as the race contenders finished ensconced in the peloton, saving their energy for tomorrow's Alpine stage.
The 195km route takes the Giro d'Italia peloton over the Trivigno and Mortirolo before a finish in Aprica.
Giro d'Italia 2010, stage 18: Levico Terme-Bresica
1. Andre Greipel (Ger) HTC-Columbia 156km in 3-14-59
2. Julian Dean (Nzl) Garmin-Transitions
3. Tiziano dall'Antonia (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
4. Greg Henderson (Nzl) Team Sky
5. Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre-Farnese Vini
6. Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank
7. Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) Saxo Bank
8. Michiel Elijzen (Ned) Omega Pharma-Lotto
9. Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
10. William Bonnet (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom all same time.
General classification after stage 18
1. David Arroyo (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne in 76-26-37
2. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo at 2-27
3. Richie Porte (Aus) Saxo Bank at 2-44
4. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team at 3-09
5. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo at 4-41
6. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo at 4-53
7. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana at 5-12
8. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli at 5-24
9. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini at 9-21
10. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Liquigas-Doimo at 9-32
Andre Greipel takes his first 2010 Giro stage win
David Arroyo: Safe in pink for another day
2010 Giro d'Italia: Stage wins so far
Stage one (ITT): Bradley Wiggins (Sky)
Stage two: Tyler Farrar (Garmin)
Stage three: Wouter Weylandt (Quick Step)
Stage four (TTT): Liquigas
Stage five: Jerome Pineau (Quick Step)
Stage six: Matthew Lloyd (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
Stage seven: Cadel Evans (BMC Racing)
Stage eight: Chris Sorensen (Saxo Bank)
Stage nine: Matt Goss (HTC-Columbia)
Stage 10: Tyler Farrar (Garmin)
Stage 11: Evgeni Petrov (Katusha)
Stage 12: Filippo Pozzato (Katusha)
Stage 13: Manuel Belleti (Colnago-CSF)
Stage 14: Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas)
Stage 15: Ivan Basso (Liquigas)
Stage 16 (ITT): Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone)
Stage 17: Damien Monier (Cofidis)
Stage 18: Andre Greipel (HTC-Columbia)
2010 Giro d'Italia coverage in association with Zipvit