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(Reuters) - German veteran Andre Greipel claimed the third stage of this year's Giro d'Italia after his Lotto-Soudal team powered him home on a pancake flat 12th stage on Thursday.
The Belgium-based outfit turned the last 15km of the 182km stage in the lowlands near Venice into a team time trial as the Red Express roared around the streets of Bibione.
All eight riders stayed wheel to wheel, stretching the peloton, before Greipel took over and blasted to the line, using all his experience to hold off young Australian Caleb Ewan.
"It was amazing to follow the wheels of my team mates today," said the 33-year-old, who announced straight after the stage that he would withdraw from the race with the mountains looming.
"It worked out really good. I wanted to do the sprint from the corner and I'm happy that it worked out like that," he told reporters.
"My season is full of goals and of course I'm not happy to pull out of the Giro with the red jersey. But the team and myself have made the decision to go home, to leave the Giro today, and prepare for the upcoming goals," he added.
Race leader Bob Jungels from Luxembourg retained the Maglia Rosa after finishing safely in the bunch.
The Etixx Quick-Step rider leads Costa Rica's Andrey Amador (Movistar) by 24 seconds with pre-race favourites Alejandro Valverde and Vincenzo Nibali just over one minute back.
After a relatively straightforward couple of days, the road goes up into the mountains on Friday with four categorised climbs likely to test Jungels' hold on the pink jersey.
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Richard Balmforth