Ciolek takes Vuelta stage 2 sprint. Sponsor Milram thrilled.

Gerald Ciolek wins the bunch sprint.

Gerald Ciolek wins the bunch sprint.

Milram, one of the most invisible and under-performing Pro-tour squads, finally got a grand tour win in the Vuelta’s stage two. Sprinter Gerald Ciolek edged Italian Fabio Sabatini (Liquigas) and Brit Roger Hammond (Cervélo) in a bunch sprint into Emmen after 202 kilometers in the saddle.

Last year Ciolek was part of Mark Cavendish’s Columbia high speed train, helping him win four stages in the Tour de France. No doubt the Milram rider is happy to be Cav-free in the Spanish Grand tour.

Perhaps benefiting from first hand experience inside the Columbia train, he was able to make use of them today. When Columbia and Garmin Slipstream ramped things up for their sprinters Greipel and Farrar, the Milram rider stunned them all with a strong jump to the line. ”It was a surprise. It was so close and I was not sure who the winner was,” said Ciolek.

Every sprinter in the peloton is tap dancing in their cleats that Mark Cavendish is not riding the Vuelta. At last, a grand tour where they have a shot at something higher than 2nd place. Columbia sprinter Andre Greipel must feel the pressure — “Here son, here’s the keys to Mark Cavendish’s train while he’s away. See if you can win anything.” Same goes for Tyler Farrar. That elusive grand tour stage win is still just out of reach.

Milram, which might be German for “poorly spent sponsorship dollars,” had to be thrilled with the victory. The team hasn’t had much success to crow about this year. But with another flat stage tomorrow, perhaps Gerald Ciolek will deliver again. For Milram, wo stage wins would certainly cure invisibility.

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