By Susan Westemeyer
André Greipel of Team Columbia burst onto the cycling scene this year with 14 wins to become the third most successful rider in the peloton behind his teammate Mark Cavendish and Quick Step's Tom Boonen. After only two wins in each of the previous two years, his sudden streak was aided by his strong team.
"It simply worked out. The team management believed in me and I could rely on the whole team. All year, it was just fun to ride," Greipel, 26, said to Cyclingnews. "I achieved all of my wins through super teamwork. Through those successes I gained self-confidence because I didn't want to disappoint my teammates."
Germany's Greipel opened the season in January by winning the Tour Down Under, and four of its six stages. He continued well throughout the spring races that followed.
"That was a sensational beginning for the team and for me. [Directeur Sportif] Alan Peiper told me that the next three months would be decisive for my career and that further motivated me."
Thanks to the Tour Down Under, Greipel was the first leader in the ProTour ranking this year. He lined up in Belgium's biggest race wearing the special white and blue jersey of the classification leader.
He explained that it was a highlight of this season, "to be at the start of the Ronde van Vlaanderen in the ProTour leader's jersey. I felt like a nobody, but it was a great feeling to be recognised along with all the famous Classics specialists."
Another highlight was his stage win in the Giro d'Italia. In the 17th stage, he set up the sprint for Mark Cavendish, but instead of sprinting for this third stage win, the Brit held back and let Greipel take the win.
"I think that Mark knows how important the team is and how important a lead-out man is. I had supported him until then 100 percent and he honoured me on that stage, even if it wasn't planned. He is a gentleman."