Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) says that he's not quite back to full form after breaking a rib earlier this season. Greipel came down in a crash during a crash on the fifth stage of the Volta ao Algarve, suffering bruises and abrasions as well as a broken rib.
He had been going well until then, with two victories in Mallorca already, but was forced to sit out of the opening weekend of the Classics at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne because of the injury. The German is currently competing at the Three Days of De Panne, where he says his main aim is just making it to the finish.
"The ribs are ok, but the problems are the legs now," Greipel told Cyclingnews on the start line of the Three Days of De Panne. "I have to get through this stage. I know that I'm not in 100 per cent shape, the team is good with Pim Ligthart and Sean de Bie. At the finish, I will see where I am. If I am in the front group then, of course, I will try to sprint, but I have to see what happens."
Greipel went on to finish 13th in the sprint behind stage winner Elia Viviani (Sky).
Greipel made his classics debut at Gent-Wevelgem last Sunday, a race that he finished fourth in back in 2011. There was no such luck this time, and the Lotto-Soudal rider climbed off before the finish. It was a tough introduction to the Belgian cobbles for 2016.
"They say that it's not the best race to start after an injury. I think that I had seven or eight race days before then. It's not easy; you're riding against the best guys at the moment, and it's just not easy to stay with them," Greipel said. "The classics are not playing in the sand. I mean, I've come back from injury, but I have trained hard enough to be competitive in those races. Just to finish those races is already hard, but I have to get through these now and then it will be better."
After De Panne, Greipel will next race at the Tour of Flanders where he is due to ride in support of the team's leaders Tiesj Benoot and Jurgen Roelandts. Greipel had a particularly good edition of Flanders last season, making several attacks throughout the race and finishing 15th overall. He doesn't expect to be able to manage that this year, but he hopes to play a role for the team's two leaders.
"It would be a dream to have that condition again this year, but I am far away from that. I think, the work has to be done before," explained Greipel. "I think it's really important to have as many riders as possible to support them in the final. Last year it worked out quite well. I won't have the condition to do it again this year but in the end, I think that we have to try and support Tiesj Benoot and Jürgen Roelandts as much and as well as we can. We will see."
Greipel also has Scheldeprijs and Paris-Roubaix left on his calendar at the classics before he gets a short break. His next big target will be the Giro d'Italia, where he has won a stage on each occasion he's participated, and he's hoping to add at least one more this time.
"It's is a nice race to take part in, and anyway, you have to train. The Giro is a super nice race, and there are a lot of chances for sprinters this year."