For the fifth time in his career, Andre Greipel has closed out the Santos Tour Down Under with a final day stage victory. In doing so, the Lotto Soudal rider became the only multiple stage winner of the race in 2018 and extended his career stage win count at the race to 18.
"The whole team is happy and myself also. There was a lot of suffering in the middle of this race here with the two really hot days and for sure it wasn't healthy but I am happy we could get over it and have the full strength again today. It was an exciting sprint and I was lucky enough to be the first one to cross the line," Greipel said once the podium celebrations were completed.
Greipel hadn't raced the Tour Down Under since 2014 but resumed where he left off by winning stage 1 into Lyndoch and taking the ochre race leader’s jersey. In Greipel's absence, Caleb Ewan announced himself as the premier sprinter of the race but in their two head-to-head battles, it was Greipel who came up trumps.
With Mitchelton-Scott riding the final stage of the race with the dual ambitions of sealing the overall with Daryl Impey and taking the stage with Ewan, it was no surprise the Australian team took up the responsibility of controlling the race. Lotto Soudal sent Thomas De Ghent to the front to help ensure a sprint finish but the majority of the work was still done by Mitchelton-Scott.
In the run into the line, it was Ewan again hitting out first and taking the front position after good work by his team. But like in Lyndoch, and Victor Harbor, Ewan conceded from a winning position and would finish second again.
"You have to gamble and wait as long as possible, he came pretty far and fast like a cannonball and it was really hard to chase his back wheel and pass him as well," Greipel said of the Australian who won four stages of last year's race.
"I was lucky enough and of course experience helps. Every lap I could see the finish and could see also that the wind changed. As a team, we didn't want to do the lead-out, just make the position and then, of course, you need to have instinct to make the right things."
Greipel's difficult 2017 season has been well documented, with his mother passing away during the winter. While the German’s 2017 season also started well, 2018 appears to be a better vintage. Even if it is several weeks until the grapes are harvested.
"It is always nice to start with wins in the beginning of the season and it also helps the team. That was the goal to hopefully have a successful season and it is already quite successful for now. I am happy now to go home tomorrow."