André Greipel (Israel Start-Up Nation) has a huge haul of victories in the biggest races on the world stage but winning the final race in the Challenge Mallorca series could well count as among the most significant for the veteran German.
The 38-year-old, who at times has delivered a double-digit yearly win tally, has gone more than two years since tasting victory, with 2020 the only year in his professional career without a single win to his name.
That dry spell for the rider, who still leads the active rider victory ranking, came to an end at the 169.8 kilometre Trofeo Alcudia whwn Greipel tore across the line in front of Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) and Christophe Noppe (Arkéa-Samsic).
The joy of winning was clear, both in a video interview after the race and Greipel’s instagram post, which read: “Don’t you ever give up … thanks for the support boys.”
Greipel had come painstakingly close to victory at the Tour of Turkey last month, with two second places and one of them with just centimetres in it. The chance to turn around the near misses came at the Port d'Alcudia finish line, with the break pulled back in and the bunch together for the sprint.
“The last two years weren’t the easiest of my career,” Greipel admitted. “But in that time I still enjoyed riding my bike. It has always ben my passion to ride my bike.”
“I really enjoy riding my bike,” the sprinter said. “It’s fun for me. Racing is just something I really like to do.”
Greipel rode for Arkéa-Samsic for less than a full season in 2019, with both sides agreeing to terminate his contract early. A shoulder injury in February last year put him out of action for three months, but shortly thereafter the Covid pandemic shut everything down.
“It made the racing calendar totally different. But I kept believing in it and I finally won a bike race again,” he said. His family – wife and two daughters – “of course played a big part” in helping him through those times.
The thought of ending his career was never seriously considered, he said.
“When you are not reaching your goals any more, you can always quit. But that’s not the way I want to end my career. I always try to fulfill my goals and so I’m happy that I could finally win again.”
The four-race Challenge Mallorca series was set to run in January, as it celebrated its 30th edition. However the high COVID-19 case numbers in Mallorca meant that the races were postponed as the Island entered the highest level of restrictions in Spain, with a ban on sporting events with more than 50 people. The races – contested by a mix of WorldTeams, ProTeams and National teams – were instead rescheduled to May.
“Everybody was dedicated to do well,” said Greipel in a video posted on Twitter.
“We found each other really well in the final, everybody played his part in this victory today. So I am really happy that I could be on the first step again and to win it and I am super proud of the team.“
Greipel, who joined Israel Start-Up Nation last year, plans to see out his career at the team with his contract finishing at the end of 2022. Among Greipel’s 157 wins, there are 11 Tour de France stages, seven in the Giro d’Italia and four in the Vuelta a España.
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