In the third bunch sprint of the 2016 Tour de France the Lotto-Soudal team seemed to have done a perfect lead-out for their sprinter André Greipel, but once the sprint got underway he ran out of gas. While Greipel was blown backwards on the uphill stretch to the finish line it was his compatriot Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) who stormed to his first stage win this year.
“Everything went good until 250 metres to go. I’m just sorry for my teammates. I think they did a really good job today. I stepped on the pedals and had no power left. That’s all,” Greipel said, shortly after freshening up in the team bus.
It was too early to know the reason for his lacking performance. Nevertheless Greipel tried to provide some explanation to the attending journalists at the team bus. “Like I said. I tried my best. The team tried their best. I don’t know why, how. I felt good during the stage. Maybe the final was too hard. That can be. Normally a final like this suits me quite well but I don’t know, I just had no power.”
Though Greipel had an off-day the team showed that they were able to do a strong lead-out for their sprinter. They controlled the final kilometres like no other team. “We were the whole time controlling, taking the responsibility during the finale as well. It was just on me that I had not the legs,” Greipel said.
Shortly after his narrow defeat over Mark Cavendish in Angers on Monday the German sprinter was stepping off the bus with a fighting spirit, exchanging a fist-bump with team manager Marc Sergeant. One day later in Limoges he hadn’t lost all hope for a stage win. “Sometime you win, sometimes you lose. That’s cycling I guess. I will not put my head in the sand. I believe in it,” Greipel said, half an hour after the stage finish.
Four days into the Tour de France there were more questions than answers for Marc Sergeant. “We tried to provide Greipel with the comfortable feeling of being in front instead of riding in tenth position. Nevertheless something wasn’t right. There’s many stages left, even though we would’ve loved to have won before the others got one. Cavendish has two wins, Kittel now has a win. The problem is that other teams might say that it’s too hard that day and then you’re alone to do the chasing work. Winning the first bunch sprint is a big difference on the mental front,” Sergeant said.
The Belgian manager acknowledged that missing out on the victory for the third time was a blow for the team. Then again, he realized that it was useless to keep thinking about those missed opportunities for too long. “André has always been a guarantee on at least one stage win, once in the sixth stage and once in the fifteenth stage. There’ll be a few more opportunities coming our way to get a stage win. At the Tour you always have to perform a reset because if you take along the defeats then it’s not going to work out.”
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