Greipel has often been the bridesmaid to Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) as they won the most important sprints in professional cycling, but now he seems to have the best finishing sprint. He seems able to produce more power, reach a higher finishing speed and read the sprint better than his rivals.
Greipel dug deep to survive and stay in contact with the front group in the hilly opening 75 kilometres and after the 7.9km Col d’Escrinet climb, so he could then use his sprinting skills.
“It was a pretty tough stage, we were suffering from kilometre zero until the end,” Greipel explained in his usual gentle Gorilla persona that is so different to when he is sprinting to the line.
“The peloton never slowed down and I was hanging on as long as possible. It was dangerous with the cross winds and everything. But in the end the team put me in the perfect spot to launch my sprint. In the end, when I can see the finish, I can always find some extra power. I’m really happy that I could make it.”
Greipel beat John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Alexander Kristoff in the high-speed sprint. Kristoff’s Katusha team lead out the sprint and then Degenkolb kicked hard down the middle of the road. The Paris-Roubaix winner seemed to be in front but in truth Greipel had the speed to hold him and surged up along the barriers to win. Sagan was fourth and Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) was fifth.
“I chose to take the wheel of Kristoff because I understood that it would be hard on this final,” Greipel explained. “When I saw the sign for 250 metres to go, I placed my acceleration and the power was there. At 100 meters, I passed onto the 11 tooth and I was happy that my chain stayed on!”
The green jersey and thinking of Paris
Greipel scored 50 points for his sprint win but Sagan also picked up 20 points in the intermediate sprint and then 18 points for fourth place, to stay in the green jersey with a total of 360 points. Greipel is second with 316 points and no longer seems interested in the points competition.
“We’re happy with the moment, with three stage wins,” he said. “There’s still long way to go to Paris. A sprint is not the same after three weeks as it is in the first week, but I’m looking forward to Paris.
“When starting the Tour de France, the biggest race of the year, we all hope to win a stage. I won my third victory in four sprints so it's incredible. This is a very good Tour for me and my team with Tony Gallopin, who is also very well placed in the general classification (ninth) after two weeks of racing.”