Andre Greipel is facing an important week at the Tour of Oman. The German sprinter has already had his first run-out with his new team, the Pro Continental-level Arkea-Samsic, but the Tropicale Amissa Bongo in Gabon turned out not to be the best ground on which to lay foundations.
"I expected it to be different, to be more organised, but it wasn't. You're riding with riders who are risking more than they do in Europe," Greipel told Cyclignnews in Oman.
"It's the biggest race in Africa so they want to show themselves. It's money to earn as well. But they're riding well – it's not like playing PlayStation or something, I was surprised, actually, that there were so many strong riders."
Greipel won a stage in Gabon, but had to settle for minor placings on the other six days.
"I just tried to stay out of trouble," he said. "We worked well together, despite all the disorganization and the different racing style. A lot of the finishes didn't suit my way of racing. There were a lot of attacks in the final kilometres. With six riders, we had to make choices and could not perform a real lead-out anymore. But we came away with a victory and made the best out of it."
After several years at Lotto Soudal, Greipel is ripping up his habits with the move to the second-division Arkea-Samsic, having to construct a lead-out train from scratch. That process can now begin in earnest in Oman, where he'll be guided by compatriot Robert Wagner.
There are, on paper, three opportunities for the sprinters, with flat stages along the coast on the first and final days, and another mostly flat parcours on stage 4.
"We want to win a stage, for sure. I'm focused on the sprints. The form is good. I know a bit about the Tour of Oman, and it's never easy, the bunch is quite strong as well," Greipel said.
"We have to first pick out the teams who are dedicated for the lead-outs. I think Vital Concept and Direct Energie have really strong teams.
Vital Concept will be working for Bryan Coquard, and Direct Energie for Niccolo Bonifazio, who won three stages and the overall in Gabon. Greipel will also have to contend with Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates).
"There are a lot of good sprinters here, so if you win a stage here it's a prestigious win," he said.