Skip to main content

André Greipel: My 10 best wins

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Procycling magazine: the best writing and photography from inside the world’s toughest sport. Pick up your copy now in all good newsagents and supermarkets, or get a Procycling print or digital subscription, and never miss an issue.

André Greipel is one of the most successful sprinters ever in the peloton, whose 16-year career includes 156 wins. In 2016, the German powerhouse took Procycling through the most significant and memorable of his wins.

This article appeared in Procycling magazine issue 222, 2016

1. The first win

Tour of Denmark 2005, Stage 6, Slagelse–Frederiksberg (Copenhagen)

My first win ever as a pro was in Copenhagen at the Tour of Denmark, in 2005. It was my first year as a pro and the whole of the race had been good for me – I already had a second and a third.

This was the first race where my team Wiesenhof had let me sprint for myself. I’d won a lot of races as an amateur, also in the sprints, but I’d been lucky to turn pro because at that time it was not easy for German riders to get contracts.

It’s a special sprint in Copenhagen – you need a good position because it’s quite a tricky circuit with a lot of corners in the final. You have to have a really good position already with three or four kilometres to the finish, otherwise you are too far back. I had good support from my team-mates Sebastian Siedler and Ralf Grabsch. Ivan Basso went for a solo attack but Siedler made a lot of moves to bring me into a good wheel and I had a good position. 

In the last kilometre I was following Graeme Brown [who came fourth] and I could come round him. I didn’t imagine back then that I would go on to win 139 races. I always had the will to fight, to be there, and to get the chances to show myself. In the end it was just nice to get a first race win.

2. First WorldTour win

Tour Down Under 2008, Stage 2, Stirling–Hahndorf

Greipel strikes on stage 2 of the 2008 Tour Down Under

Greipel strikes on stage 2 of the 2008 Tour Down Under (Image credit: Getty Images)

I had been the lead-out for Gerald Ciolek in the previous years, and for Cav, but I knew I could be a good sprinter. I always knew it but never got many chances, so this was the first time I could sprint by myself in a ProTour race. Allan Peiper, the sports director at Highroad, supported me in this and I worked hard to be in good shape. I was really hungry to show what I could do.

Being the sprinter was what I wanted, and it was also the first year the Tour Down Under was in the ProTour. I came to Adelaide and it was like being at home somehow. I felt really good, I had no problem with the heat or with the distance. It was a really nice atmosphere. We’d also had our sponsor, Telekom, pull out in the winter. At the beginning of December, Bob Stapleton [team boss] said, ‘Okay guys, we can shut it down, or you have to take pay cuts.’ I was thankful Bob let the team live, and was supporting us to race. On one hand I was surprised to win four stages. On the other, I’d worked really hard for it and had good team support.

3. Stage race win

Tour Down Under 2010, General classification

Greipel took home the overall title at the 2010 Tour Down Under

Greipel took home the overall title at the 2010 Tour Down Under (Image credit: Getty Images)

At the Tour Down Under in those days, a sprinter could win the race overall thanks to the bonus seconds. But you still had to climb well and I was able to do so. Winning the GC was also connected to a lot of suffering on my part. I didn’t target the GC the first time I won [in 2008] but the second time, in 2010, I did. I think I also would have been able to win in 2009 but I’d broken my shoulder.

As a sprinter you can’t plan to target the general classification at a stage race but towards the end of the race you start to go through scenarios that could happen. On the Willunga Hill stage you know you are going to suffer, and these days, with the finish at the top, it’s not possible for a sprinter to win. But I was lucky enough that the finish that year was down the other side. On the Willunga stage I was hanging on as long as possible, and my team-mates stayed with me and brought me back. We were pretty far back but Adam Hansen did a really nice job, chasing down the 20 or 25 guys in front and I could finish in the same time as the winner.

4. First Tour de France stage win

Tour de France 2011, Stage 10, Aurillac–Carmaux

Greipel gets the better of his old teammate Cavendish at the 2011 Tour

Greipel gets the better of his old teammate Cavendish at the 2011 Tour (Image credit: Getty Images)

I could never go to the Tour before 2011, when I was riding for Highroad. For sure it was a hard decision to take Cav or me but I always felt I had the right to do the Tour. I went to Omega Pharma and I wanted to prove that I could win a Tour stage.

This was a hard stage with a climb and everybody put the sprinters under pressure. Philippe Gilbert was my team-mate at the time and he also attacked, which was planned. I knew I could climb a bit better than some of the other sprinters and was holding on. It was a hard last 25km but I had Jürgen Roelandts to work and with Sieberg I had a good guy to follow to put me in position. There were fewer riders left than usual, and with 1.3km to go there was a turn where it was important to be near the front. 

From there on, it was lined up and I was behind Sieberg, but we’d gone to the front too quickly, so I had to adjust – I let two guys between us – Daniel Oss and Cav. You don’t get much slipstream behind Cav but I just believed and it was the moment to go. I was pretty relieved. If you see the pictures of me winning, I think they say more than any words can.

5. Biggest one-day win

Vattenfall Cyclassics 2015, Hamburg, Germany

Greipel wins the brunch sprint

Greipel beats Kristoff to the line in Hamburg (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)

I was so often on the podium of this race but always got beaten. It’s a tricky race and a nervous sprint but last year I managed to take the wheel of Kristoff and could pass him to win.

I was happy because Hamburg is close to the city where I was born [Rostock], so a lot of family always come to support me there. I was always trying, trying and trying to win, and this time it worked. It’s hard to do a lead-out in Hamburg – keeping the team together is hard. Plus, the final straight is so narrow – when you are too far back you have no space to sprint. You have to be in the front and somehow be lucky to get the right wheel. This time I was lucky – Kristoff went early and I could get in behind him.

With 2km to go, you have to be there in front. Lars Bak and Marcel Sieberg brought me up there. Sieby is always the wheel to follow when you need to get into position and it was him who brought me up and onto Kristoff’s wheel.

For a sprinter it’s not easy to win WorldTour one-day races. Hamburg suits the sprinters but it’s still quite tough, and you have to put a lot of energy into positioning for the climb and the finish. It’s more a race that sprinters can survive.

6. Madrid in green

Vuelta a España 2009, Stage 21, Rivas-Vaciamadrid–Madrid

Andre Greipel (Columbia-HTC) won the final stage in Madrid.

Greipel wins on the final day of the 2009 Vuelta (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)

I won four stages in the 2009 Vuelta but the last one in Madrid was a special memory – I was in the green jersey and to win the last stage of a Grand Tour is always special.

We had a great team in 2009 – I had a really good lead-out with Adam Hansen, Sieberg and Greg Henderson. Sieberg is my best friend and for positioning and lead-out he’s the most important rider. He makes the difference – he always makes the right decision at the right moment. We don’t have to communicate much during the race – we usually have a plan before the race – but he knows what to do, and we find each other in the last 20km. He’s so tall, it’s easy to find him in the bunch.

This year, in Paris-Roubaix, Sieby showed what he is able to do, with 7th place. He’s a rider who is able to get good results but his character is that he likes to support other riders.

7. A win for the team

Eneco Tour 2010, Stage 6, Bilzen–Heers

André Greipel (HTC-Columbia) bests Jurgen Roelandts to win in Heers.

Greipel wins the penultimate stage as teammate Tony Martin goes on to win the overall (Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)

I love this win because it was a team win, which I was a big part of. The second-last day, I won in front of Jürgen Roelandts on a pretty tough stage with lots of climbs, including the Mur de Huy. At the end they really attacked to try and take the leader’s jersey from my team-mate Tony Martin but me and Bert Grabsch had to defend him; just two of us against all the others, riding on the front. 

I’d been on the front for 40km, and then our DS Brian Holm said, André, you can stop working now, and prepare for the sprint. Tony did the lead-out for me, I won the stage, and we’d done enough for him to win overall as well. I like it when people work for me but the focus for this stage was to defend another rider’s jersey and it worked.

8. A great Tour

Tour de France 2012, Stage 13, St-Paul-Trois-Châteaux–Le Cap d’Agde

Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) wins stage 13 of the Tour de France

Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) wins stage 13 of the 2012 Tour de France (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

For the first time, I had a full lead-out. I’d asked for Greg Henderson and he came back from Sky, and we had Adam Hansen, Lars Bak and Sieby as well. That’s why we managed to win three stages in the 2012 Tour. We raced the whole year together, from the Tour Down Under onwards, with a core group. We were good friends who liked racing together, and that made us successful.

The stage win at Cap d’Agde in the 2012 Tour was a pretty painful one but everybody in the team got involved, which is why it’s a nice memory. Even Jurgen Van den Broeck, our GC guy, was pulling. There was a nasty climb near the finish, and Jurgen stayed with me, with Lars Bak, and could bring me back to the front group. We hadn’t planned on a bunch sprint, just to stay near the front for the climb. The rest was all suffering. 

The sprint wasn’t easy, and Peter Sagan came close but Bradley Wiggins was in yellow and leading out Eddy [Boasson Hagen], and I was on Eddy’s wheel. Around this time Eddy always sprinted too early. I knew Eddy well from our time at HTC and knew his was the wheel to follow.

9. National champion

German road race championships, 2013, 2014, 2016

Winning the Nationals is always a big deal. It’s just me and Sieberg there for the team, and we say, ‘Okay, one of us has to win.‘ But we’re not the only small team – every other team is small as well. We pick out a few dangerous riders, and I’ll watch a few of them, and Sieberg will watch the others, so that if they go in a group we have to be there with them. If we’re still together at the end, we can make a one-man lead-out.

The first time I won, I wasn’t sure if the race was good for me because it was quite hilly but at the end we were both in a group of 18. Sieberg attacked with 4km to go with two others, and nobody was really chasing. But with one kilometre to go, they came back and I was able to win the sprint. It was really emotional – I’ve worn the national champion’s jersey three times and each time it has been a really emotional experience for me.

10. Tour de France dominance

Tour de France 2015, Stage 21, Sèvres-Paris–Champs-Élysées

Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal)

Greipel picks up his fourth win of the 2015 Tour on the final stage in Paris (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The 2015 Tour was a special one. I didn’t change anything in particular but I think the race suited me. There was no really relaxing day and I like it if a race is quite tough.

On the first road stage to Zeeland we were not just cruising around. If there had been no wind, we would have finished with 180 riders in the bunch but it was windy and rainy. We knew it would break up; that was the plan and we took responsibility for it after going through a city with lots of roundabouts then full crosswind. We took the initiative and broke the peloton. There were only 25 riders in front and three from our team – me, Sieberg and Gallopin. We were happy that Etixx were there to pull for Cavendish, and Froome was there as well, so they also helped us stay ahead. At the end, with 5km to go, I said to Sieberg, don’t go too early; just take me to Cav’s wheel.

But the Champs-Élysées was the one. That was my biggest win ever. It’s a difficult sprint to manage – positioning is everything but I came round the last turn in 8th or 9th position. Normally you can’t win from there but somehow I did, and I’m quite proud of that. I noticed that the surface of the road on the Champs seems to get worse and worse every year. You have to be very concentrated for this sprint – a lot of riders aren’t fully in the race any more but our team is always really focused. We rode all day on the front and deserved the win.

It’s a hard sprint in Paris but in the sprint, you don’t feel pain. You push the pedals, and of course it hurts, but you don’t pay too much attention – you are so focused on doing your best and doing things right. You mustn’t think about the win or the finish line, just the steps you need to take.

You have to be a different person on the bike than off it. Everybody says I’m too gentle, but with 139 wins, I think I also have some elbows.

Procycling magazine: the best writing and photography from inside the world’s toughest sport. Pick up your copy now in all good newsagents and supermarkets, or get a Procycling print or digital subscription, and never miss an issue.

Follow @Procycling_magazine