Before stage 7 of the Tour de France, Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) repeated an appeal to the spectators along the route and even along the barricaded finishing straights to give riders respect and stay back from the roads, saying that he made contact with three fans who were leaning over the barriers in the final kilometres of stage 6.
The Tour de France runs a 'respect the riders' campaign, which asks fans not to do things such as running alongside the peloton. But Greipel says that even in the sections with barriers fans have caused problems. When asked how often it happened, his response was "too often".
"Yesterday, I hit three times spectators on the side of the road, so this is a big appeal to spectators to not lean over the barriers to respect us and to give us the space that we need," Greipel said.
"Sometimes the roads can be really wide, but we still need the gaps on the side of the road by the fences. Of course, it's dangerous. If you have a big camera like what happened yesterday, it can bring a whole peloton down, and the Tour could be finished for a lot of riders."
Greipel said that it is possible to adjust your riding to accommodate the issue, but in the mix of a sprint, it is an unrealistic challenge.
"Let's say you can make a bit of a safe distance from the fans, but in the end, if someone is leaning their whole body over the barriers then they are really close to us, and the safe distance we have to have from the fans is not realistic enough."
Greipel 'not fast enough'
Greipel broke his run of third place sprint finishes in the Tour de France on Friday, but it was with a disappointing ninth place in Nuits-Saint-George.
He was almost 10 riders back as Edvald Boasson Hagen was released to start the sprint, and although he tried to pass the group, his progression was halted by Michael Matthews going out to the left-hand side of the road during the sprint.
Greipel has never been enamoured by the idea of speaking to the press, but his disappointment was easy to see with his unusually terse responses.
"Not so well, as one could see," Greipel said of his sprint after stepping off the bus in casual clothing before many riders had even made it to their busses. "Well, we were not together as a team, and at 70 kph you can only ride in the slipstream and stay in the position you're in."
"I was sitting too far back, and from that position, you can not win."
In four sprints, Greipel has not managed to improve on third place, with Marcel Kittel closing out all three. Greipel admitted after stage 6 that his compatriot was just too good, and he was not fast enough. Greipel has an impressive run of Grand Tour stage wins, taking at least one victory in every Grand Tour he has ridden since the 2008 Giro d'Italia. He remains positive that a win will come before the race finishes in just over two weeks.
"I learned that I'm not fast enough. There isn't so much you can do about it," he had said ahead of the start. "We're just trying to set up our plans and trying to deal with it and get into the best position. We need to also have a little bit of luck on our side, like Marcel goes from a bit too far or he gets boxed in.
"It's only seven stages done, and the Tour has 21, so we are confident."
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