Omega Pharma-Lotto teamwork delivers André Greipel his first Tour win
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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Omega Pharma-Lotto teamwork delivers André Greipel his first Tour win

by Ben Atkins at 3:07 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Philippe Gilbert’s late attack blows holes into HTC-Highroad leadout train

andre greipelLess than a week after Omega Pharma-Lotto was having to play down suggestions of divisions in its triple-headed team, André Greipel and Philippe Gilbert are showing a united front. The German sprinter, nicknamed “the Gorilla” won his first ever stage of the race, in his first ever appearance, thanks largely to his Belgian teammate.

After stage five on Wednesday Greipel reportedly growled: “This is not a team!” as he boarded the team bus; it couldn’t be more different today.

“When I crossed the line I was just really happy,” Greipel said after the stage. “It was the biggest moment in my cycling career and it’s a special day.

“It was a big success for me just to be able to take part in this race,” he explained. “I’m really happy to have found a team that I could ride for in the Tour de France. Of course I had my own ambitions here and I tried to win a stage and now I’ve managed that. I wanted to show myself and prove that I can be competitive in this race. I’m really happy to do that.”

Greipel had previously plied his trade at what is now HTC-Highroad but found that his own ambition came into conflict with that of the team’s emerging star Mark Cavendish. The two had a very public falling out last season, and Cavendish famously declared that Greipel would not be welcome on any team that he was on; with the Manxman a virtually guaranteed winner, the team sided with him.

“Of course it was always a hard decision that the sport directors [at my old team] had to make about selection and the success of Mark Cavendish is incredible,” said Greipel diplomatically. “He’s won 17 stages of the Tour de France, and this sort of record gave the sport directors and him the right to make the selection.

“That’s why it’s been hard for me in the past to get in to do this race. I’m grateful to Omega Pharma-Lotto for giving me a chance and I’m happy that I could win for this team.”

Today’s stage win was a side-by-side straight out sprint for the line against his former teammate, which the German won by a wheel. The rider he beat must have made the victory even sweeter.

"This victory is a victory for the team,” said Gilbert after the stage. “We only have six from our team left in the race, but we are still capable of doing good things.”

With the team starting with three captains, Gilbert was one of the riders that Greipel felt he was battling against last week. The loss of Jurgen Van Den Broeck and, with him the team’s overall ambitions, perhaps means that things are easy for the other two leaders.

philippe gilbertIt was Gilbert’s devastating pace on the final climb that shed Cavendish’s leadout man Mark Renshaw, and it was the peloton’s chasing of his attack on the descent that got rod of Matt Goss. By the time the front of the peloton reached the finishing straight, the HTC-Highroad train was missing two of its vital locomotives.

“We planned to make the race hard on the final ascent,” Gilbert explained. “It was not very steep, but we really climbed it quickly. Then I continued to ride at the front... then there were only five of us, and I tried and thought I might be able to win the stage.”

Gilbert himself won his first ever Tour stage on the opening day, and he currently leads the green jersey competition. His attack almost won him a second, but in the end it meant that Greipel, and the rest of the Omega Pharma-Lotto team, didn’t have to do any work on the way to the finish.

“When I found myself alone, it wasn’t necessarily because I attacked, it just that the others didn’t follow me!

“In the end, it became very difficult because there was still a climb near the finish and I could not hold on to my advantage. I went back in the peloton, and immediately took the wheel of Greipel so no other sprinter could get in his wake.”

Gilbert himself faded at the finish, largely thanks to his earlier efforts, and could only manage 14th. This cost him much of his lead over Cavendish and José Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) in the race for the green jersey, but today was all about Greipel’s victory.

“Finally he managed to win, it is very beautiful,” he said. He really wanted this win!"

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