HTC-Columbia's Andre Greipel believes claims that he’s the favourite for this week’s Tour Down Under are incorrect, despite his long-running success at the Australian race. Greipel dominated the event in 2007 and even by 2008 winner Allan Davis’ own admission would have been difficult to beat last year, had he not crashed out of the race.
“It’s the beginning of the season, nobody knows how their condition is really,” said Greipel. “The race has become a little bit tougher now, it’s harder, I don’t see myself as the favourite at all. We’ll try to be up there but I think there are a lot of other riders this year who can win the race. We want to win a stage, that’s why we’re here.”
Greipel pretended to forget the events that transpired last time he was in Australia. Greipel’s early season was destroyed when colliding with a parked Police motorcycle forced him out for four months, but he made up for it by claiming as many Vuelta a Espana stage victories when he returned.
“What happened?,” he joked. “It’s a part of the sport; it’s a bit of bad luck that the motorbike was parked there. I had really good surgery and everything is fine, so I don’t think about the crash anymore.”
Due to the accident Greipel was unable to contest the revised route last year, which included a second lap of the Willunga climb on stage five. He believes that lap has tipped the balance from being in favour of sprinters to the Spring Classic-type riders.
“With two laps over the Willunga hill it’s not an easy race for a sprinter,” he said. “It’s not really a sprinter’s stage, the Classics riders are a little bit better over the climb than the sprinters.”
Greipel perhaps got a taste of what could lay ahead on last night’s pre-Tour Down Under criterium, with Greg Henderson claiming victory after Team Sky dominated the closing laps. The big-budget British outfit managed to overcome surges from Greipel’s train on two occasions in the closing laps.