Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) is hoping to repeat his feat of 2016 and end a difficult Tour de France with a sprint victory on the Champs Elysees in Paris. The German sprinter struggled against the dominance of Mark Cavendish in 2016 and this year he was often a spectator in the sprints as compatriot Marcel Kittel won five stages.
Greipel's best results were third in Liege on stage 2, third in Vittel on stage four and third in Troyes on stage six. His Lotto-Soudal team often showed their speed and muscle in the leadouts, but Greipel was unable to finish things off in the increasingly hectic finishes.
"It wasn't an easy Tour de France for me, that's for sure," Greipel told Cyclingnews, digging deep in search of as final burst of motivation for Sunday's fast finish.
"But you get beaten for a reason and Kittel was strong, and I was never close to victory. You've got to deal with it and accept it. There were simply faster guys than me in the sprints. My power data shows I'm just as fast as ever. I'm not getting older or slower, it's that the others were better."
This year's Tour de France saw a further evolution in sprinting with Kittel and Quick-Step Floors changing their sprint strategy, opting to help Kittel avoid the fighting up front and use his power and speed to come from behind. Sagan, Cavendish, Demare and Bouhanni can handle the fighting for wheel and sudden changes in line but Greipel seemed to struggle. For now he refuses to change his sprinting style.
"Everyone has their own tactics and strategy and I prefer to stick to mine. That helped me win a lot with the team and so it'd be unwise to suddenly change things during this Tour de France," he argued.
After a long hard loop of France, many of Greipel's rivals are no longer in the Tour. Kittel and Cavendish crashed, out, Sagan was disqualified and Demare missed the time cut on stage 9. Greipel beat Sagan and Alexander Kristoff last year on the Champs Elysees. His biggest rivals today are again Kristoff – despite being in pain after a recent crash, green jersey winner Michael Matthews, Nacer Bouhanni – who like Greipel is still searching for a win in this year's Tour, John Degenkolb, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Sonny Colbrelli.
Greipel is tired and downbeat but his victory last year taught him to never give up hope.
"We'll be working to win on the Champs Elysees. We'll see how it the Tour ends. The Tour ends on the Champs Elysees, right on the line, hopefully with a final, successful sprint once again."