Giro 17: Greipel and Cavendish give High Road 1-2

German takes his first grand tour stage win

Germany's Tour Down Under winner Andre Greipel recorded his first ever stage win in a major Tour when he landed the 17th leg of the Tour of Italy in Locarno on Wednesday.

The 25-year-old High Road cyclist edged out British team-mate Mark Cavendish, who has already won two stages on this year's race.

Spain's Tour de France titleholder Alberto Contador retained the overall leader's pink jersey with just four stages remaining before they cross the finishing line.

Both Greipel and Cavendish, who won Commonwealth gold for his birthplace of the Isle of Man on the track in 2006 in Melbourne, raised their arms in triumph as they crossed the line almost in unison. Cavendish had worked his heart out for his team-mate and on several occasions stopped Italian rider Daniele Bennati from overtaking them - he eventually finished third.

Greipel acknowledged that his victory was not just a solo effort.

"After the finish line, everybody in the team was delighted," said the German. "Cavendish as well. It is a team victory, one doesn't win a sprint without it being so."

Contador for his part was happy that it hadn't been too testing a day even after it came following a rest day.

"It was a quiet day," said Contador, who will be unable to defend his Tour de France title as his Astana team have not been invited by the race organisers as they have had several high profile drug scandals in recent years.

"I felt well, I didn't have any allergy problems. As for the final few days? Both Riccardo Riccò (second 41sec behind) and Gilberto Simoni (third over a minute in arrears) are dangerous. But Simoni has more experience," added Contador, referring to the 36-year-old Simoni's two previous Giro victories.

Riccò, though, gave Contador a boost as he revealed he was not in the best of health.

"I am a little troubled by bronchitis. Today (Wednesday), and had trouble breathing. Last night (Tuesday), I could not sleep. I was still coughing during the stage. But even if it the cruel reality, I have no intention of giving up."

Russia's Mikhail Ignatiev had led a three man breakaway - they had an eight minute lead at one point - with him being the last of the trio to be swept up just four kilometres from the line.

Thursday's 18th stage is the 147km ride from the Swiss village of Mendrisio to the Italian town of Varese - the sites of the next two world championships.

For full results, report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.

© AFP 2008

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