A gorilla cycles into a press room… André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) may not be destined for the stand-up circuit when he decides to hang up his wheels, but the softly-spoken German has a neat sense for a deadpan line all the same.
After claiming his second stage win of the Giro d’Italia with a furious sprint finish in Foligno, Greipel arrived at the media centre by bike, pedalling through the main doors and directly into the sports hall that housed the race’s press pack.
The win brought Greipel level with his countryman Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) on two victories apiece this week, though the latter’s puncture in the final kilometres meant that the expected all-German sprint battle did not materialise.
No sooner had Greipel taken his seat in the conference room than he was asked if he believed he should lead the German team at October’s sprinter-friendly World Championships in Doha rather than Kittel or John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin).
“I know the World Championships are in October,” Greipel said and then added: “Now we have May.”
A more convoluted approach to landing an answer to the same query followed. As Giro press officer Matt Rendell began to translate the question, Greipel smiled – “I understood that” – and assented to delivering a longer version of his default diplomatic response.
“I think I’ve proved in the past that I’m able to compete well over this distance, but it’s a decision for others to make. I’ll just try to be in top condition and if it’s not me, I’ll be sad, but the national coach has to make the decision.”
A local writer attempting to compose a colour piece on Greipel struggled manfully to extract information from his subject, asking whether his children were following in his path as a cyclist. “They’re doing dancing,” Greipel said and then paused. “So they can for sure dance better than me.”
Another reporter made the cardinal error of prefixing a question by addressing Greipel as “Marcel,” but Greipel took it in good spirits. “I’m not Marcel, thank you,” he said. The same reporter’s request for Greipel’s power output in the final sprint, where he surged clear of Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) and Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) was met with a similarly deadpan response. “I don’t like to talk about numbers,” he said. “I speak with the legs.”
Greipel spoke with his initial silence, perhaps, when asked if he was planning to stay on the Giro all the way through to Turin now that he has inherited the red jersey of points leader from Kittel. Sprint opportunities are at a premium in weeks two and three of the Giro, and the German has abandoned the race on each of his past two participations.
“We’re going to see day by day and I’ll speak with the sports director,” Greipel said of a putative points classification challenge. “I haven’t attempted any bonus sprints yet. We’ll have to see how we compete in the future.”
Greipel’s victory in Umbria was Lotto-Soudal’s third in as many days following his own win in Benevento and Tim Wellens’ subsequent triumph at Roccaraso. Regardless of how much further Greipel goes at this Giro, the Belgian squad’s race will be marked as a success.
“Before today we were already satisfied with our Giro but now even more so. Taking three wins out of seven stages is impressive for us,” he said. “We’re just enjoying the moment.”
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