Andre Greipel's Omega Pharma teammates pleased with his arrival, expecting elusive first win soon
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Andre Greipel's Omega Pharma teammates pleased with his arrival, expecting elusive first win soon

by Jered Gruber at 2:59 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
German sprinter will get his next chance this week at the Volta ao Algarve

Marc Sergeant's Omega Pharma-Lotto team has gotten into a bad habit over the past two seasons of not winning early on in the season. In 2009, it took the team until March 28th to get its first win of the season through a stage win from Cadel Evans at the Settimana Coppi e Bartali; in 2010, it took even longer - Philippe Gilbert's first career triumph at the Amstel Gold Race on April 18th was also his team's first win of 2010.

While the first win isn't the most important thing in the world when you have a rider like Gilbert capable of winning pretty much any Classic, it's still a monkey that needs removing from a team's proverbial shoulders - and the sooner the better.

With the signing of Andre Greipel from HTC-Highroad, Omega Pharma-Lotto picked up a rider who can win bike races - lots of them. Looking back at 2010, Andre Greipel took nine victories before Omega Pharma managed one, and Greipel took his tenth season win on April 18th, the same day Omega Pharma got their first.

Unfortunately, the Rostock native was not able to continue his winning ways at the Tour Down Under this year. The two-time overall winner and eight-time stage winner left Australia with a goose egg in 2011. While a win wasn't forthcoming, two second place finishes, a seventh, and seventh place overall were solid results - but unfortunately no win.

Young Belgian sprinter, Jurgen Roelandts, feels that the European riders were at a significant disadvantage this year coming into Australia this year following a terrible winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Looking at the final general classification in Australia, three of the top four were Australian, with only Ben Swift ruining the Aussie sweep: Meyer, Goss, Swift, Matthews. According to Roelandts, the return to Europe along with the introduction of longer stages should see the balance tilt back in favor of a rider like Greipel.

"We were not so lucky in the Tour Down Under, but I believe that we might do well in our next race, the Volta ao Algarve. The stages are much longer than in Australia, where the local riders were more explosive because of better winter training," said Roelandts to Belgium's La Derniere Heure.

With the former Belgian champion musing about his teammate's chances of success, it's hard not to wonder if it's difficult for him to ponder another sprinter's glory when he himself could be the rider sprinting for wins at the upcoming Tour of the Algarve. The 25 year old talent from Asse sees the situation positively though - as a chance to learn and grow.

"It does not worry me in the least. Instead, I think that I can learn a lot from him."

If Greipel and Roelandts can operate well as a sprinting unit, they could form a formidable duo. Add in the impressive young British talent, Adam Blythe, to the mix, and that's a trio of fastmen that could go up with anyone in the world.

One of the team's workhorses in years past and certainly for this year, Olivier Kaisen, has been happy with his new teammate so far in 2011. Kaisen has nothing but words of praise for the German sprinter and expects both Greipel and the team's win column to start ticking upward in the not so distant future.

"I had expected that he would be more nervous in races, but he is very calm. He talks a lot to the team and is certainly not big-headed. He hasn't won yet, but it will happen."

The big question will remain though - can Greipel win big races? It seems unquestioned that the big German sprinter can win bunches of lesser sprints each year, but is he fast and cagey enough to vie for a hard-earned place as one of the world's best sprinters in the season's most important races?

That's a question that can wait though - at this moment, Greipel and Omega Pharma-Lotto will likely be happy with a plain old, boring 'shit small' win at Algarve this week.

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