Germany's Andre Greipel lines up for his second crack at the Tour de France in Liege on Saturday, and the Lotto-Belisol man will begin the race as one of the most in-form sprinters in the world. Greipel tasted success by winning stage 10 at his debut Tour last year and few would bet against him adding at least one more stage to his palmares this time round.
Of Greipel's 14 wins this year, one of the most informative was the most recent - a defeat of Mark Cavendish and Mark Renshaw in stage two of the Ster ZLM Toer in Holland. It offered evidence that Greipel will fear nobody on the flat sprinting stages at the Tour and though he claimed last week that he was not thinking about winning the coveted green jersey, Greipel is upbeat about the overall state of his Lotto-Belisol team and hopes to mix it with the best sprinters around over the next three weeks.
"With Marcel Sieberg, Jürgen Roelandts and Greg Henderson, I have the best and fastest pilots imaginable at my side," Greipel said on the team website. "This is the way that I could collect seven victories in the last four weeks. It is an important foundation for the Tour and I could prove that I belong among the best sprinters. So I am looking forward to my second Tour."
Aside from his lead-out train, which is proving more and more to be one of the best in cycling with each race that passes, Greipel also said that Lotto-Belisol has strength in depth and plenty of balance - which could lead to a sustained challenge on several fronts at the Tour.
"I am particularly pleased that the team management has considered my wishes for the sprint train," Greipel said. "We are a very good team and understand each other well away from the road. The atmosphere between us is very good.
"With Jurgen Van den Broeck [4th in the 2010 Tour de France - ed.] and Jelle Vanendert, we have two strong men for the mountains. Plus with Lars Bak, Adam Hansen and Francis De Greef we have three good all-rounders, who will also have an important role to play."