André Greipel was left to rue Tony Martin's absence from the German lead-out train at the end of UCI World Championships road race in Copenhagen as he sprinted to third place behind his former teammate and perennial rival Mark Cavendish (Great Britain).
Newly-crowned time trial world champion Martin was one of four German riders caught up in a crash with six laps to go and was unable to regain contact with the front end of the peloton. Germany's reduced numbers meant that they had to cease their collaboration in policing the race with Great Britain, and perhaps more importantly, Greipel was left without Martin's support in the finale and had to come from a long way back in the sprint.
"Of course he would have played a really big role in the final straight, so for us it was a real pity that we lost him," Greipel said. "We were chasing first with the British team but then the crash happened and we had four guys caught behind so we had to change our plan. It was just a pity for us to lose Tony Martin, so we didn't have a real lead-out team but we did our best. Degenkolb, Hondo and Sieberg brought me to a good position."
Speaking to Cyclingnews afterwards, the softly-spoken Greipel declared himself pleased with the bronze medal around his neck, even if he recognised that the uphill drag to the line was a wonderful opportunity for him to be Germany's first world champion since Rudi Altig in 1966.
"This finish suited me, I knew I could win here and I think I was close," he said. "Of course I can be happy with third place, but for me I came here to be world champion. I got all the support of the team, and I think we can be happy with third place. But this is cycling. You need luck at the world championships and you need luck to win."
Greipel endured an uneasy co-existence with Mark Cavendish during their time at HTC-Highroad, and left for Omega Pharma-Lotto at the beginning of this season. Although he scored a fine victory over his great rival in Carmaux at the Tour de France, he had to give best to the Manxman in Copenhagen.
"One of the best sprinters in the world won the title, so I'm happy with third place," he said.
At the finish, Greipel had to wait for the commissaires to view a replay of the sprint before being formally awarded third place ahead of Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland). In the post-race press conference, Greipel explained that there was never any doubt in his mind that he had edged out the Swiss rider, "When I crossed the line I was certain because I saw it directly, so the minutes [of waiting for confirmation - ed.] were not so bad."