Andre Greipel eyeing off rainbow jersey to cap off career-best season

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Andre Greipel has outlined designs on the upcoming UCI Road World Championships that will culminate what has been the greatest season of his professional career to date.

Greipel started the Tour of Britain yesterday as preparation for the September 27 men’s road race, in which Germany has two stand-out options: Greipel, who won an unparalleled four stages at the Tour de France this year, and John Degenkolb.

“With John Degenkolb we have one of the best one-day classic riders in our team … he’s one of our riders, who will try to get a good result, but I think also myself,” Greipel said in a phone interview. “We’re going to see if we can go with two leaders in this race. That’s why I’m trying to be in best shape as possible.”

Greipel finished the opening stage of the Tour of Britain in Wales third behind stage winner Elia Viviani (Sky) and Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick-Step) yesterday following what has been, despite injury, an emphatic return to racing from a career-defining Tour de France.

Greipel managed pain in his left knee during the final week of the Tour and has continued to monitor the complaint he said has stemmed from an inflamed tendon. He considered delaying his return but ultimately started the August Eneco Tour where he won a stage before claiming line honours at the Vattenfall Cyclassics.

The Lotto Soudal leader attributes his 15 victories to date this season — including a stage win at Paris-Nice and the Giro d’Italia — to several factors including an overhaul of a typically rigid race program, which for the first time in seven years did not begin in Australia at the Tour Down Under.

“Not doing Australia didn’t make the difference for being in good shape for the Tour. But I think the Giro was really hard, 13 days I did there, I think this put me another level higher to be there on better days for the Tour de France, I would say,” he said.

“We raced a lot always in the beginning of the season and we were already quite tired when the Classics started so that’s why we all wanted to change the program a little bit.

“The goal was to put more quality and not quantity in the races, plus be more fresh for the Classics. The whole team was also on a different race program so we were really good in the Classics and it was a good experience for the team as well to change the race program a little bit.”

Greipel also attributed his career-best season to familiarisation with a new trainer and his teammates, especially Marcel Sieberg, who stepped up at the Tour in the notable absence of injured pilots and domestiques.

“He (Sieberg) was a really key part this year to make the difference between winning and losing,” he said.

“The whole team gave me also the confidence towards every race, from the bus driver, mechanic also the team management, they tried to sign riders also for the next years, so they made a really big effort also to keep this family together.”

Despite the success, the ‘Gorilla’ has not gone so far to say he will mimic his revised race program in 2016. He is already thinking, not just of the 2015 world championships but of the Worlds road race in Qatar next season, which is likely to be tailored to pure sprinters.

“First I’m going to finish this season and then in November or December I can make up my race program again,” Greipel said. “I think the world championships is quite late next year so this is also something you need to keep in your mind.

“I think it was my best season ever; nothing can take that away any more. It could get better of course but I actually am already quite happy, super happy, with the season.

“It doesn’t change the goal for the upcoming races and also towards the next seasons. You always have to perform good again.”

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