With a massive grunt André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) threw his bike just ahead of Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) at the finish of the Tour de France’s second stage in Neeltje Jans, Netherlands. The German rider’s seventh stage victory in the Tour de France also puts the 32-year-old at the top of the table in the points classification. On Monday Greipel will enjoy his first-ever stint in the green jersey when the peloton kicks off stage 3 in Antwerp, Belgium, which is home to his employer Lotto-Soudal.
“It’s the first time in my life I’m wearing the green jersey in the Tour de France. I will enjoy it today,” Greipel said at the post-race press conference. “We’ll see what comes later but for now I’ll just try to enjoy this win. Every victory is nice so this win is like that too. You arrive here at the Tour with a lot of pressure, so it’s nice to get the win already in the second stage.”
Team manager Marc Sergeant repeated the same sound about the early win. “This is great for the team. It’s often a boost to get more wins," Sergeant told Cyclingnews. "During previous years I always kept a list with team names, chalking up the number of wins for each team. Quite often I had to get back to teams that already had a win. In the end there are only a dozen teams who win. I hope that with this early win we’ll be in the same situation.”
Greipel didn’t give away whether he would be fighting to keep the jersey. Greipel leads the points classification with 55 points, which is 16 more than Sagan. Earlier on Sunday Greipel moved up to the front of the peloton that rode behind four leaders to pick up some points at the intermediate sprint. Greipel was seventh of the peloton, which offered him a mere five points, while John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) showed his ambitions by taking 11 points.
A few kilometres later a summer storm tortured the riders' backs and the peloton started to split up. Greipel always managed to stay near the front, making it into the group of 24 riders that would sprint for the victory on the working island Neeltje Jans in the Zelande province.
“Our group never slowed down, so we saved a bit of energy because we were just with three guys. When you saw the numbers of the QuickStep riders in our group it was clear they would launch the sprint,” Greipel said. The Lotto-Soudal riders helped along to set-up the breakaway but then they shifted back when the gap was created.
Team manager Marc Sergeant explained those tactics to Cyclingnews at the finish line. “From there it was up to the teams of the GC-riders to put their rivals at distance,” he said. Clearly the size of the gap was not important to Lotto-Soudal. For riders like Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-QuickStep) and Christopher Froome (Team Sky) it was about putting Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and the other GC riders at as much time as possible. While the other teams worked in the final kilometres towards the finish to get the gap growing, Lotto-Soudal awaited their moment to move up.
“I told Tony [Gallopin] and Marcel [Sieberg] that with two kilometres to go we had to wait as long as possible because there was a bit of headwind. Marcel Sieberg is always there when we need him. He could get me in position in the wheel of Cav. I think Mark Renshaw went a bit too early so Cav was forced to launch his sprint early too. But he already won a lot of stages in this way because he can hold the speed for a long time.
"I was able to stay on his wheel and time my sprint in the right way. I was able to pass him and get it to the line. It was close with Sagan but I already lost sprints by a millimetre too.”
On the finish photo, Greipel is visible throwing his bike forward, keeping it a couple of centimetres ahead of Sagan’s wheel.
The support from his team-mate Marcel Sieberg was all-important for Greipel, and when asked about him the stage winner was clearly grateful.
“He’s not just a good rider. He’s my best friend. We know each other since I’m riding my bike so he’s the most reliable rider for me. He’s pretty smart in the way he’s riding his bike. It means a lot to have a rider like him in the team. It’s a rider everybody looks up to and listens to.”