By his own admission, his goals coming in the Vuelta a España were far more modest than his actual achievements, and as a result André Greipel is increasingly confident in his abilities.
The Columbia-HTC rider scorched to his fourth stage victory of the race today, coming back from approximately 15th place with 500 metres to go to hit the line first. He comfortably beat Liquigas’ Daniele Bennati and the Slovenian rider Borut Bozic (Vacansoleil), sealing a decisive victory in the points classification.
"The guys did an incredible leadout and I am really pleased with that," he said afterwards. "I was really happy when we could cross the line first.
"I’m also delighted with four stage wins. We came here with a strong team for the sprints. It was hard for them to survive during the mountains. I am really thankful that they stayed with me during the Vuelta and could support me during the sprint stages."
The 27-year-old won a stage in the Giro d’Italia last year but was clearly a level above that in this Tour of Spain, netting more victories than he had expected and also sealing his first Grand Tour points title.
"This was a very important step for my career and confidence," he said. "Before I came to the Vuelta I thought maybe I would win one stage if it was possible. But now I won four, and we took five with the team [Greg Henderson also triumphed]. It is incredible for us."
Greipel’s final total in the green jersey contest was 150 points, 39 more than that amassed by race winner Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne). He had been concerned about his chances when he and a large number of riders were controversially docked 25 points on the Sierra Nevada stage, but finally proved a decisive victor in that contest.
That too has done much to advance his career, and to underline that Columbia’s sprinting is not just a one man, Mark Cavendish show.
"Taking this jersey was really hard, there was a lot of breakaways that took the points," he said. "The guys worked very well for me, and with [Marcel] Sieberg and Greg Henderson, I think I had the best two lead-out men here. I really appreciate what they and my other team-mates have done during the three weeks."
Greipel has just four races left this year, two being the world championships and Paris-Tours. He said then he’ll take a good holiday and, when rested, start thinking about his schedule and goals for next year.
He’s hoping one of those is the sport’s biggest race, something which would require himself and Cavendish to race together in the event. In that case, they’d have to either share ambitions or one would have to work for the other.
"I would like to do the Tour [at least] once," he said. "I hope it’s next season."