Interview with Andre Greipel: “Milan-San Remo and Gent-Wevelgem will be a main focus this Spring”
With 16 victories in 2014, including a stage win in the Tour de France, German sprinter André Greipel was the most successful rider of the season. After many years of kicking off his season in the Tour Down Under, a race he won two times with a record amount of 16 stage wins, the 32-year old opts for another season build-up in 2015.
“Milan-San Remo and Gent-Wevelgem will be a main focus this Spring,” Greipel told CyclingTips at a construction trade fair in Munich. “I want to find out if I will be relatively more fresh in the final of those classics without having down Tour Down Under.”
Greipel was with the first group in the freezing cold 2014 edition of Milan-San Remo but got dropped in the last metres of the last climb. In Gent-Wevelgem the two-time German champion crashed in the final and tore his shoulder ligaments, an injury he only recently completely recovered from.
Paris-Roubaix is also a race he thinks may suit him while he is more realistic about the Tour of Flanders. “I was in the final of Roubaix last year until I had a flat. I want to try it again next year because you never know. Flanders is different. I will ride in support of the team because I have to be realistic on that course. Roubaix is flat, Flanders is not.”
Without the Tour Down Under, Greipel will have to wait a bit longer for his first season win. The past three years he celebrated in January already.
“Of course it is always nice to have that first win under your belt. It takes the pressure off me.”
Greipel starts the 2015 season in Mallorca. “Two of the races there suit a sprinter but I haven’t reached anywhere near my top form yet of course. After that I’ll go to Algarve and the first race on Belgian soil is Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.”
After the Spring campaign the Lotto-Soudal rider will do both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France and hopes to add a third German title to his palmares in-between those races.
The affable German has been part of the Belgian Cycling Project, from this year riding under the name of Lotto-Soudal, since 2012. Soudal, an industrial sealants and adhesives company, recently joined the Belgian lottery team as a co-sponsor for six years, an unprecedented amount of years in global cycling sponsorship.
“I am 32 now but I am still progressing. As long as I can keep up, I want to keep riding,” Greipel says. “I wouldn’t mind staying with Lotto-Soudal for those six years. They have a vision with this team. There’s a great atmosphere for both staff and riders.”
Being a sprinter, Greipel takes a lot of pressure on his broad shoulders. “Winning is the great thing about sprinting. It’s about adrenalin. It’s an addiction, just like basejumpers who keep jumping too.”
With so many major victories on his palmares, Greipel admits that getting all the attention is not his favorite thing. He is known to always deflect that attention to the team, to the riders who work for him in the sprint train: Marcel Sieberg, Adam Hansen, Greg Henderson and Jürgen Roelandts.
“These guys can easily win races themselves but they sacrifice their chances for me. I always say that we win together and we lose together. A sprint train is all about trust and I always want to bring back the focus to the team. I have known Siebie [Marcel Sieberg] since we were 11. We raced together in Germany and are the only ones of our age group left. I trust him 100%. He calls the shots in a sprint and I follow.”
Sprint trains like Giant-Alpecin with Marcel Kittel, Etixx-Quick Step with Mark Cavendish and Greipel’s Lotto-Soudal have changed the face of sprinting in recent years.
“It’s now all about position, to be there at the right time and the right moment. The watts are not as high as you might think. It’s also about being the smartest. Giant-Shimano were the smartest in last year’s Tour de France. They used our power, they just were smarter.”
Always soft-spoken and kind-natured to fans, his teammates and the media alike, André Greipel almost seems to be kind to be a sprinter in modern day cycling where the likes of Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish make the show.
“For such a nice guy I did win a lot of races,” he says with a smile. “I am not so kind when it comes down to the finish line. If everyone has worked 100% and we lose, I am okay with that. If someone didn’t give his all, I do get angry.”
With six Tour de France stages, two Giro stages, four Vuelta stages including a points jersey plus many stage wins in races like Tour of Turkey, Tour of Belgium and the Eneco Tour, Greipel is one of the most successful and consistent German riders of the moment.
He turned pro when he was 22, just after he became a dad to daughter Anna.
“I don’t think I would have become a pro rider if I Anna wasn’t born. I was very serious about my job from the beginning because I had to provide for my family. My parents taught me that. It never felt like a job though. Of course I don’t like training in the rain but the sense of fulfillment it gives when you did do it, is good.”
Greipel says his family, his wife, his daughters Anna and Luna and his parents, keep him grounded. “Real character shows when you have success and money. I didn’t change at all since I was 22.”
With the influx of young talents like Louis Vervaeke, Tiesj Benoot, Stig Broeckx, Jasper De Buyst and Tim Wellens, Lotto-Soudal has rejuvenated itself in recent years.
“I am always open to help these young guys with advice. If someone else becomes faster than me, I will help them but I have to know that they really want to learn from what I say. Andreas Klier taught me so much about racing tactics and attitude. I hope these young guys will one day say the same thing about me,” he concludes.