The Lotto Belisol sprinter was in second position as the peloton swung right for the final time with 400 meters to go. Sitting behind his lead-out man Kenny Dehaes, Greipel was forced to open his sprint early and paid the price as Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) blasted towards his first win on Belgian soil for his new team. Greipel sat up before the line and was forced to settle for 12th place.
Outside the Lotto Belisol team bus he was asked to explain what went wrong by the gathering press. "The headwind. That's what went wrong. We made, I mean, I made a mistake. I went with Kenny where I should have stayed on the wheel of Cavendish. It was very clear: he who went first would be the one who lost the race. And that person was me. My mistake."
Lotto Belisol was placed under pressure before the final turn when Niki Terpstra's pace forced a split at the head of the field. Lotto duly responded by reeling in the Dutchman and his companions, who included Cavendish.
"Kenny did a good job bringing me back. But a headwind sprint is always difficult to adjust. But I knew it would be headwind. So, it was my mistake," Greipel acknowledged and in doing so taking the heat from Dehaes.
"I told him before the sprint not to hit the front too early, because of the headwind. So it was my fault and his fault as well. Anyway it's not easy winning a sprint in De Panne."
With Greipel returning to the sanctuary of the bus it was Dehaes' turn to face the media scrum. The 28-year-old has already won twice himself this season and with Greg Henderson out of De Panne with illness, lead-out duties fell at the feet of Dehaes.
He, too, took the blame for Lotto's fluffed lines.
"It was very chaotic. But I went all out before the bend, where I should have waited until after the bend. That was my mistake. But it's my first time leading out. I'm still learning."
They Lotto Belisol sprint train and their leader will have another chance in 24 hours with De Panne's final road stage of 109.7 kilometres.