Victory still eludes Tour Down Under’s most successful stage rider
What a difference a day makes as Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) visibly showed signs of disappointment as he read the newspaper headlines posted on the Tour Down Under media centre wall just hours after his second straight sprint loss to start the 2014 season.
Greipel, who finished the People's Choice Classic on Sunday just behind Giant-Shimano sensation Marcel Kittel in what is certain to be the first of many head-to-head shootouts in the years to come was out-gunned by two-time race winner and Australian national road race champion Simon Gerrans.
"I was surprised, not so much that Gerrans was able to take the win, but rather how good Andre was able to climb the hill. Andre is a very solid rider and is improving is overall ability. We will see him at the finish again," Kittel said after the race yesterday.
But on the start line of Stage 2, the 14-time Tout Down Under stage winner – most of any other cyclist – looked confident and welcoming as he posed for photos and signed autographs for throngs of adoring fans eager to meet the German national champion nicknamed the "Gorilla" for his tenacity and uber-powerful sprint kick.
"The first loss was the criterium and Marcel beat me to the line," Greipel told Cyclingnews of his rival who won four sprint stages at the 2013 Tour de France and ended Mark Cavendish's four-year stranglehold over the Champs-Élysées. "Yesterday we were not expecting to be up for the sprint and were kind of surprised to be there with six guys."
Normally Menglers Hill creates problems for the heavier-built sprinters, but on Tuesday, a headwind gave Greipel and his Lotto-Belisol teammates the opportunity to get over it and set up for the sprint.
"There was a headwind on the climb that made it easier for us," said Greipel. "We pedalled for the stage win, but unfortunately it did not work out. The team led me out and Daryl Impey went early. The climb for sure took some sting out of my legs."
While Greipel has finished the 150-kilometre Stirling circuit on Stage 2 positioned as high as both second and third and the Stage 4 sprint into Victor Harbour is the next realistic opportunity for him to take first.
"Victor Harbour is the first possible chance for me to get a stage win," he said. "I think I may have a good chance to get over today and pedal for a stage win, but also Adam Hanson is in really good shape so we have two opportunities to go for a stage win in Stirling."