Greipel to debut with Fortuneo-Samsic at Tropicale Amissa Bongo

German sprinter opts for different programme after divorce from Lotto Soudal

Andre Greipel will make his 2019 debut at the Tropicale Amissa Bongo stage race in Gabon, Africa, as he begins a new chapter of his career with French Professional Continental team Fortuneo-Samsic.

Greipel has often kicked his seasons off at the Tour Down Under in Australia, where he has won 18 stages and the overall classification in 2008 and 2010.

However, his painful divorce from Lotto Soudal and his step-down to Professional Continental level means the 36-year-old German will face new challenges and new races.

The 2019 Tropicale Amissa Bongo will be held between January 21-27, with the opening stage in Bongoville, in the west of the African country, with other stages in the north and the seventh and final stage in the capital Libreville.

Race organisers also confirmed that the French teams Direct Energie and Vital Concept-B&B Hotels will also ride the 2019 edition of the Tropicale Amissa Bongo. 10 African teams will complete the start list. The 2018 edition of the race was won by Rwanda's Joseph Areruya, who rides for the Marseille Provence KTM Delko team.

Greipel’s long spell at Lotto Soudal ended after bitter contract negotiations with then team manager Paul De Geyter, who has since been replaced by John John Leglangue, with Australia’s Caleb Ewan replacing Greipel as the team’s lead sprinter.

"Lotto is a closed book now," the German said after taking his final victories for Lotto Soudal during the Tour of Britain.

"I’m super happy with everything I achieved with this team. I’m not a guy who looks back in anger. I still love it even if it was a tough last two months. Mentally, it’s not been easy, but it’s a closed book."

A new challenge at 36

Greipel is due to meet up with his new Brittany-based team and new teammates after the end-of-season holidays. The team announced his arrival on August 2, just the second day of the official UCI transfer window.

He will join forces with team leader Warren Barguil, with added support from fellow German Robert Wagner, who joins Fortuneo-Samsic from LottoNL-Jumbo. The team is expected to secure a wild card invitation to the 2019 Tour de France and so Greipel will be chasing further success in the sprint stages.

"First we have to get together, and I have to get to know the riders. They have some guys with potential on the sprinting side, like [Michael] Carbel, [Bram] Welten, [Florian] Vachon - they know how to do it. I just need to get to know the way they ride," Greipel said at the Tour of Britain.

"As you could see in recent races, sprinting isn’t always about the lead-out train. Quick-Step make it to perfection in every sprint but if you see the Tour de France, it’s not about lead-out trains - it’s about putting the sprinter in the best position. Sometimes it’s two or three guys moving around to get the sprinter in place - you have to adapt. There is a lot of work to do, I guess."

"Next season, I want to be at 100 per cent of my abilities. I want to bring my sporting qualities but also my personality and my experience. I look forward to discovering my new role in this new environment. I understand and speak a few words of French but after the first races I should be much more comfortable. I know that the team is very attached to its Breton roots. The Tour de France often stops there so I have already realised that this is a bike land.

"I wouldn’t say it’s an adventure, but I’m pretty happy, and I hope I can help the team on the way that they want to reach. We'll find out next year."

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