Since the 2008 Giro d'Italia, Andre Greipel has won at least one stage in every Grand Tour he started since and he is aiming to continue his run at the 2017 Tour de France. The Lotto Soudal sprinter will use the added motivation of a home Tour de France Grand Depart in Düsseldorf to claim 12th career stage of the French Grand Tour.
Ahead of his seventh consecutive Tour, Greipel described the emotion of starting Grand Tour in Germany for the first time in his career.
"The start of the Tour is always special. When you are not motivated for the Tour it is better not to come. This time the Grand Départ takes place close to home. The city Düsseldorf and the entire region have made the Tour start possible," said Greipel. "Apart from that there was the trust that ASO put in Düsseldorf to realise the Grand Départ in a country that is rediscovering cycling. That is the merit of the many talented German riders who set strong performances the past years," said Greipel in a team release.
Having won a stage of the Giro in May and worn the leader's maglia rosa, the 34-year-old explained there are several stages he has an eye on at the Tour. However, he simply wants to win regardless of the location.
"It's obvious what the goal of our team is. I know what's expected from me and my teammates know that too. We really want to win a stage and the sooner the better. Although I won't say no to a victory on the Champs Elysées," said Greipel who has won the Tour's final stage on the last two occasions.
"The finish in Liège on Sunday is very special for our team. It would be fantastic to win at the first opportunity, but we won't be the only team that wants that. We have a very experienced team that has ridden many Tours together and that has prepared a lot of bunch sprints together. We know how to handle stressful situations."
Although Fernando Gaviria, who won four stages at the Giro on his Grand Tour debut, is missing from the start list, Greipel is expecting a tough battle in the sprints and isn't expecting any gifts from his rivals.
"The competition is huge. It was a while ago that there were so many strong sprinters at the start with the ambition to win a stage. Among them guys who already won Tour stages, like Marcel Kittel, Mark Cavendish and me. But there is a next generation that will definitely play along," said Greipel, who also has seven wins at the Giro and four at the Vuelta a Espana.
Before the sprints get underway, Greipel and the remainder of the peloton must first navigate the opening day 14km time trial in Düsseldorf. An occasion that Greipel is aiming to soak in and enjoy the home cheers.
"Many people I know will come to the start in Düsseldorf. That makes it very unique. During a fourteen kilometres long time trial you can’t take that in, but it is a nice thought that there are many familiar faces along the course. We did a first training of 120 kilometres on roads I know well. It’s good to be here," he added.