Henderson basks in Petacchi acclaim
Winning a sprinters' stage on the Tour de France is no easy task, so when it's done and appreciation is shown by none other than Italian Alessandro Petacchi you know you've done something right.
That was the case here on Wednesday when Germany's Andre Greipel roared with raw emotion after landing his first Tour de France victory this year in a finale devoid of British sprint king Mark Cavendish.
Even if Team Sky rider Cavendish had not been delayed by a crash 2.5 km from the finish, it is questionable he would have got past a Lotto sprint train that looked unstoppable as it delivered Greipel to victory in style.
While Greipel the 'Gorilla' – as he is affectionately known for his imposing physique – roared in triumph, New Zealander Greg Henderson was basking in the knowledge that his team had the fast wheels – and no one came past.
Getting a nod from Petacchi, one of the few riders to win stages in all three Grand Tours and the Tour's green jersey champion two years ago, was the icing on the cake after the Italian finished second.
Henderson, part of the four-man sprint train, was grinning ear to ear.
"Even Alessandro Petacchi came up to me afterwards and just went, 'complimenti'," he said.
But the Kiwi who has the job of taking Greipel to the last 200 metres of the stage at an eye-popping speed of 65 km/h was at pains to point out the difficulties of his job.
"It looks easy, but it's really not easy to get four, five guys in a line to deliver a sprint. You look at it on TV and you think, 'they're just doing a lead-out'," he added.
"Trust me, it's not that easy and every team's trying to do it."
In the last few kilometres, all radio communication between teams and riders comes to an end as the train prepares to make a series of split-second decisions that can make the difference between winning and losing.
"They don't talk inside the last couple of kilometres... the last words are with about three or 4 k to go and it's, 'good luck, we have faith in you'.
"I have to shout, I have to give instructions so I can't have someone yelling in my ear so close to the line."
He added: "There's a lot more to it than getting four guys in a line and going faster and faster and faster and dropping Andre off.
"There's so much more to it than that – there's what side of what road to ride, what side of the wheel to ride, when to go, when to slow down, when to give more gas.
"All these little subtle things that people don't see and you have to take into account.
"You can't sprint too close to the barriers because people are over the side yelling and screaming. Yeah, you've got to be careful."
Having got it right once, Henderson is confident that if they get it right again their sprint rivals will have a hard job passing them.
"If we can get four (riders) inside the last kilometre, it's so fast in there that someone's got to be superman to come past because we're doing 60, 65 km/h," he said.
"And if he does come past he's already used up all his energy so he's gonna die. So that's the key."
Petacchi, meanwhile, did well to finish second. And for Henderson, there was noone better to get the nod of appreciation from.
"He's been around a long time and he knows when it's' fast," he said.
"He knows when it's perfect. All he can do is do everything to get second."