Columbia rider first German to lead Vuelta since Ullrich
Vuelta overall leader André Greipel may have missed out on his third stage win of this year's race on Friday in Xàtiva, but the German sprinter has already carved out his own slice of history. Not only did he also take possession of his first Grand Tour leader's jersey on Thursday in Vinaròs, he also became the first German rider to wear the Vuelta's Golden jersey since Jan Ullrich in 1999.
Despite finishing tenth on stage six, Greipel still holds the Vuelta lead by six seconds and once again collected the Gold jersey in Xàtiva. The Columbia-HTC rider has plenty of reason to be pleased with his accomplishments. He has used the opportunity to thank his family, his coaches and teammates for their support. "I need to thank many people," said Greipel on his personal homepage. "I have come so far in my career and I owe this to many people."
Particular words of praise went to Greipel's lead-out man Marcel Sieberg and the rest of his team. "Sibi gets half of my jersey! Today's success is a very special one and amazing compensation for many years of hard work.
"It was a tremendous feeling to be the first to cross the finish line and to secure the leader's jersey this way," the 27-year-old said after winning stage five to Vinaròs. The double accolade of the stage win and race should also make up for his non-selection to the Tour de France this July, where Columbia-HTC opted for Mark Cavendish as the team's main sprinter.
"It was a very difficult decision to make," sports director Rolf Aldag had told Cyclingnews during the Tour de France. "Greipel would have been a team leader in his own right if we didn't have Cavendish. He would have deserved selection too."
Cavendish had scored 13 victories before his six-win roll on the Tour de France, compared to Greipel's 11 successes by the end of June. Moreover, the German had to sit out 13 weeks of competition this spring after fracturing his shoulder at the Tour Down Under in February.
Greipel, who took his 17th win of the year in Vinaròs on Thursday could also aim at the World Championships in Mendrisio later this month, as his name is on the long list of riders selected by the German Cycling Federation (BDR). His nomination is "no coincidence" according to BDR official Udo Sprenger. "When someone wins two sprint stages in a row and takes the Golden jersey, you can only say: hats off!"
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