By Greg Johnson in Adelaide, Australia
Team Columbia's André Greipel is leaner and hoping to be meaner as his Tour Down Under title defence kicks off in Adelaide, Australia today. The German rider had a breakthrough season in 2008 off the back of his ProTour win in Australia and is hoping to have the legs for this year's course, which features more climbing than 2008.
"I hope so. I'm two kilograms lighter than last year, and if it's uphill the other riders try to increase the speed; I hope they don't go so fast so it's possible for me to get to the finish only 10 or 20 seconds down," he said. "Then you can try and win with time bonuses. I'll try my best, and if it's not me then hopefully it's someone else from Columbia."
Columbia enters the race with a strong team that includes Michael Rogers and George Hincapie. The team also feature's Australian sprinter Mark Renshaw, Austrian Bernhard Eisel and New Zealand's Greg Henderson.
"There is no pressure on me," said Greipel. "We have Michael Rogers, George [Hincapie] and Adam Hansen so we have guys who are better climbers than me so not so much pressure on me. I want to win a stage – after this we will see what happens."
Greipel wasted little time in showing his desire for a stage victory. At Sunday evening's Cancer Council Classic Columbia entered the final lap with its entire squad driving at the head of the peloton. The riders peeled off one at a time to reveal Greipel for the sprint finish, but Australia's Robbie McEwen (Katusha) proved to be too quick for him.
"I think Robbie's a great rider – it doesn't matter how old he is," said Greipel. "I think it was a good finish for him. He likes to use a high cadence, and with a downhill sprint it was really good for him. He came out of the slipstream and passed me really fast."
The rider only made slight changes to his training for this year's race, despite the addition of another lap over the Willunga climb in this year's race. His training ahead of Tour Down Under has been similar to last year, Greipel said.
"Maybe I did a little bit less training in terms of kilometres compared to last year; I tried my best," he said. "I think it was more quality, especially sprint training. I hope I can earn the fruits of this work."