Travelling from the heat of Australia at the Santos Tour Down Under to the arctic conditions of France proved no hindrance to André Greipel, who took his sixth win of the year in the opening stage of Tour Méditerranéen Cycliste Professionnel.
The 'Gorilla' and his Lotto Belisol train were in a league of their own in the opening round of the WorldTour at Down Under and it appears the near freezing temperatures during the stage from Limoux to Gruissan and their European-based rivals were no problem for the strength of the Belgian outfit.
The team received little support from other teams to control the lead of the early breakaway and took the initiative to control the race. The team engaged the services of the towering Olivier Kaisen, who at 195cm is one of the tallest in the bunch, and strong-man Gert Dockx to marshal the head of affairs for nearly the entire day. Greipel was the first to thank his teammates shortly after the finish with particular attention given to Kaisen and Dockx.
"Today Olivier Kaisen and Gert Dockx deserve a special mention," explained Greipel on his team site. "They [spent] the whole day in front of the peloton. No other team wanted to lend a hand and so Dockx, Kaisen and many other guys in the squad endured a tough day."
Greipel may have comfortably won the sprint at the end of the 146.5km stage but as was the case in Australia, setting up the sprint was no easy feat.
"The main part of the ride we had tailwind, causing the cold [weather to be] better than expected. Preparing the sprint was somewhat difficult because the signage was not clear, but fortunately I was able to use the work from the team at the finish," he said.
Greipel will almost certainly lose his overall lead during the stage two 24km time trial. It gives the first chance for the general classification contenders to stake their claim on the stage race.
"There is the opportunity for me to express myself, but there are also difficult steps that are important to acquire the condition," Greipel told cyclismactu.net. "The stage Friday in Baux de Provence is interesting and there is the Mont Faron. Racing against the clock will make it impossible for me to keep the leader's jersey but I think it's been a perfect start of the season."