After playing an impressive team role for Lotto Soudal in the cobbled classics, André Greipel returned to sprinting duties at the Tour of Turkey this week, surviving the climb in the finale of stage four to take a resounding stage victory in Marmaris on Wednesday.
That same evening, Greipel opted to leave the race in order to continue his preparation for the Giro d’Italia but before departing Turkey, he sat down with Cyclingnews to discuss his approach as he returns to the corsa rosa for the first time since 2010.
Cyclingnews: You changed the structure of your season this year, missing the Tour Down Under for the first time in eight years. What were the objectives of the new programme and how is it going?
André Greipel: The goal was to be good in the Classics with the whole team. I think it worked really well. We have made a really good improvement with changing the programme I would say. The next goal will be a stage win in the Giro and also the Tour.
CN: You’ve not done the Giro for a few years, what made you decide to go back there?
AG: Just for myself. A Grand Tour is always something special and I always liked the Giro – I’ve done it two times and, yeah, I just wanted to go back. I’ve done the Tour of Belgium four years in a row now and I was looking for a different race.
CN: What are your memories of the race?
AG: I like the whole atmosphere, the people, it’s a cycling country so everyone’s full into cycling. You have really nice parcours, of course I don’t like the climbs but I really still enjoy riding out there.
CN: Most of your Grand Tour wins have come at the Tour. Did you want to try and broaden that with the Giro this year?
AG: I want to add some more wins like in the Giro to my account, yes, but I have already won a stage in every grand Tour, I get paid for doing the thing I really like, I love my sport. I am lucky, I can choose my own races, so it’s nice of the team, and I think it’s also good for the team if I do the Giro.
CN: 2007 was the last year you didn’t win a Grand Tour stage – how proud of that streak are you?
AG: For sure I’m proud. But I’m also proud of the team around me. OK, I stay there in the records as the winner but I know what I have got from my teammates. They rode their ass off for me and I think whoever was involved there I can all be proud of it.
CN: Have you picked out any stages or looked at your competition for the Giro?
AG: Honestly I never look at the parcours and I never look at the riders that are starting. We always try to concentrate on ourselves, if we stick to our plan, to our tactics, I think we can still always be able to win the stage. I haven’t looked at the route, just the first day – it will be TTT, all the rest I don’t know, I will take it as it comes.
CN: You are leaving the Tour of Turkey after four stages – how has it been as preparation?
AG: I’ve had a really good training block now, ten days really good training at home even up to coming here. Everything was planned. You have these young guys here and they are risking their lives for a place in the top ten. It’s not that easy, I have other goals for the season so I’m not risking my health to be there. I won’t be relaxing now. I will still train hard until Sunday and then kind of relax a bit which you can never say will be possible at home.
CN: On Monday’s mountain stage at the Tour of Turkey you went pretty deep, I guess with the Giro’s climbs in mind. How was it?
AG: The climbing guys here are not like in the Giro, so I think I will still find myself back in the gruppetto in all the climbing stages but the Giro is much harder than here. Still, if you want to improve you sometimes have to go deeper, and that’s why I went a bit deeper on Monday. My legs are still full of lactate – it’s suffering but that’s how you get better.
CN: You haven’t had a sprint train here in Turkey, what will be the set-up for the Giro?
AG: We won’t have a train in the Giro but I have Greg Henderson and Adam Hansen so I have two guys to support me in the sprints. Maybe three guys – it could work out like this but we will see, the team also has two guys for GC.
You cannot say now I’m going to choose this wheel or whatever, every sprint is different, if there’s not a real lead-out train there then you always have to look for your spot in the sprint.
CN: From your perspective, how has sprinting changed over the years?
AG: Before, it was one team who made a lead-out train and now we have four, five, six teams riding next to each other. That makes the race faster and also more chaotic because everybody wants to go for the win for their sprinters. We can’t change that.
There’s always tension between riders and always adrenaline after the sprint, sometimes you act like you would never act if you had a clear mind. At the end we are all professionals everybody knows how it is after a race, from there on you have to go on.
CN: When you get to the end of the Tour and look back, what would you be happy with?
AG: A stage in the Giro and a stage in the Tour is a good goal. I’m always realistic, I always say it’s a Grand Tour, it has 21 stages, you take two time trials out plus a team time trial. So there are 18 guys who can win a stage, you have 19 teams and if you can be one of them to win a stage, that’s more than enough.