AJACCIO, France (VN) — There’s no hiding it anymore. André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) is racing for the green jersey in this year’s Tour de France.
The 30-year-old German is coming out of the gates strong, winning the intermediate sprints on Saturday and Sunday.
And he’s done with impressive ease. Does that mean Greipel is all-in for green?
“We have to see. I will not skip out on the intermediate sprints if they are there,” Greipel told VeloNews on Sunday. “The first goal is to win a stage.”
Last year, the “Gorilla” was only concerned about winning sprints, and saved his legs for the sprint finales. The tactic paid off well. Greipel won three stages to confirm himself as one of the pack’s fastest men.
He also finished second to green-jersey winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale), but it was a distant second. Sagan won easily, racking up 421 points, to Greipel’s 280.
With a deep sprint field this year, including Mark Cavendish backed by a strong, dedicated Omega Pharma-Quick Step squad, the fight for the stage wins and the green jersey will be among the most heated in years.
Greipel comes into the season with 10 wins, three less than archrivals Sagan and Cavendish. After last year’s big Tour success, Greipel said the priority is to win a stage.
“That is our goal. We are working toward that,” he said. “We are all ready to race. We are all in good condition. Hopefully it plays out for the wins.”
Greipel returns with the full support of the Lotto set-up train. Greg Henderson, Marcel Sieberg, Adam Hansen, and Jurgen Roelandts (who is racing with a cracked rib) are all back to pace the big German toward the line.
“Yesterday, when the crash happened, we were all lined up. We were ready for the sprint. Then with 500-600 meters, they changed their minds, and they said the finish would be at the normal finish,” Greipel said.
“We had to react, and change our tactics, it wasn’t easy. Unfortunately, this big crash happened. It was not the best start of the first stage of the Tour de France, but you can see we were in good position. I was thinking about the stage win. I think we had a fair chance.”
Greipel refused to speculate how many stages he might be able to win, sticking to the line of “winning one” is the first priority. And, as the saying goes, winning stages positions the rider for green.
One thing Greipel knows for sure — there won’t be many chances until the Tour returns to France.
“Today is not the easiest day. Perhaps Cannondale and Sagan will make us suffer,” he said. “We have to try to hang on.”