After seven weeks on the sidelines, Andre Greipel will make his racing comeback at the 4 Jours de Dunkerque this week. The German, who was forced to sit out the spring Classics after he crashed and broke his collarbone at Milan-San Remo, will be Lotto Soudal's leader in a race that suits the sprinters.
"Here we go again after 7 weeks no races I will do the #4joursdedunkerque together with my @lotto_soudal team to find back the race mode," Greipel wrote on Twitter, with a picture of him training with members of his team. "Looking forward to the goals ahead. Thanks for all the support in the last weeks from everyone in my family."
Prior to his crash at Milan-San Remo, Greipel had been enjoying a strong start to the season, with two stage wins at the Tour Down Under in January and consistent showings at the Abu Dhabi Tour and Paris-Nice. His form appeared to be peaking for the cobbled Classics but he was caught up in a crash at San Remo on the descent of the Poggio when his teammate Jasper De Buyst went down in front of him.
With so much time out, the team are trying to temper their ambitions, but they see it as an opportunity to fine tune their lead-out ahead of some bigger goals further down the line.
"We have to take into account that it is the first race in a while for Andre Greipel. He was not able to race for quite a period of time after his crash in Milan-San Remo," said Lotto-Soudal directeur sportif Frederik Willems.
"The 4 Jours de Dunkerque is an important race for Andre to build up his shape. The main goal for him is to get back to racing and boost his confidence on the way to the Tour of Belgium and Tour de Suisse and finally building up to the Tour de France. Other riders such as Jasper De Buyst and Marcel Sieberg will also be racing for the first time after the spring Classics.
"Nevertheless, Greipel is our leader. This does not mean, however, that we will put pressure on him from the beginning of the race. Building up his confidence during the stages will be crucial for him. The race is also important to practise the sprint train on the way to the Tour de France."
The 4 Jours de Dunkerque is no longer four days, despite the name, and will begin with a 165.3-kilometre stage from Dunkirk to La Bassee on Tuesday, May 8 before finishing on Sunday, May 13 with a 174.9-kilometre stage from Coulogne to Dunkirk.
Lotto-Soudal for the 4 Jours de Dunkerque: Jasper De Buyst, André Greipel, Moreno Hofland, Rémy Mertz, Lawrence Naesen, Marcel Sieberg and Enzo Wouters.