André Greipel looks back on eight successful years at Lotto Soudal
These were his 8 highlights.
André Greipel already won the second stage of the 4 Jours de Dunkerque after a powerful sprint this week. Today, he won the demanding fifth stage that finished on the Cassel climb in an impressive manner! Unfortunately, Jasper De Buyst was involved in a crash right after the finish was heading to the team bus. After an examination in hospital, it became clear he suffered a severe contusion of the right shoulder and a crack in the jawbone. He also broke some upper teeth. The injuries are being evaluated in order to decide if a participation in the upcoming Tour of Belgium is feasible.
The fifth stage of the 4 Jours de Dunkerque would prove a thorough test for the riders. Nine local laps of 14.6 kilometres were scheduled with each time two climbs included. The opening phase of the stage went really fast with the peloton averaging around 47 kilometres an hour. The bunch, with Vital Concept at the front, was determined not to let anybody escape.
Finally, after the first ascent of the Casselberg, a group of eighteen riders managed to set up a breakaway including Lotto Soudal rider André Greipel. The advantage of this group increased up to four minutes with 70 kilometres to go. This was the sign for Wanty-Group Gobert to take the initiative at the front of the bunch and keep the advantage of the eighteen escapees limited.
Meanwhile, Koning and Saez attacked out of the leading group and attained one minute advantage over the chasing group. Eventually, they were caught by the chasers. With around twenty kilometres left to race, the Belgian Claeys and the Dutchman Riesebeek accelerated in the front group. André Greipel did not hesitate and joined them. The understanding between the riders was really well and they quickly had a considerable gap over the chasers. Alexis Gougeard tried to bridge from the peloton to the three riders but could not make it in time. On the slopes of Cassel, it was Riesebeek who could not follow the pace of Claeys and Greipel. The German launched his attack with one kilometre remaining, distanced Claeys and won solo!
André Greipel: “The stage did not go as planned, but in the end, I don’t mind because I managed to win. The intention was to make it a hard race together with Jasper De Buyst and Rémy Mertz. When after the first ascent in Cassel already six riders got clear, I rode together with a dozen riders to that group. That way, a group of eighteen riders was formed. With 25 kilometres to go, I attacked together with Claeys and Riesebeek. We had agreed to keep working together until the last climb. One and a half kilometres from the line, I went all in and won. It is only the second time of my 151 victories that I can win in this way. I am now only four seconds behind on Claeys in the general classification. It will all be decided tomorrow. We will see how the stage goes but is has already been a successful 4 Jours de Dunkerque with two victories for me and a second place for Jasper De Buyst. We will see if we can put the cherry on the cake.”
In the Giro, stage eight was scheduled with a summit finish up Montevergine di Mercogliano. Tosh Van der Sande was part of the breakaway and was caught only seven kilometres from the line. Tim Wellens crashed with 30 kilometres to go. He incurred some abrasions on his right leg and left shoulder, but nothing to worry about.
With a stage of 209 kilometres that finished uphill, it was again a long and tough day for the peloton. Many riders tried to join the breakaway of the day, which resulted in a very fast and hectic opening phase of the race. After 40 kilometres of racing, eight riders managed to escape from the peloton: Bouwman, Mohoric, Montaguti, Pedersen, Polanc, Van der Sande and Villella. Moments later, only seven riders remained ahead as Pedersen was not able to follow the pace. Mitchelton-Scott, the team of GC leader Simon Yates, kept the advantage limited to a maximum of six minutes. For a long period, nothing happened in the race, until Katusha and Team Sky took over the initiative at the front of the peloton causing the advantage of the escapees to drop significantly. Van der Sande accelerated in the front group, trying to keep the pace high in the leading group. Finally, it was Bouwman who proved to be the strongest of the front group and went solo aiming for a stage victory. Unfortunately for Bouwman, the Ecuadorian Carapaz attacked from the peloton, bridged to the Dutchman, and took the win.
Tosh Van der Sande: “The plan was to be in the breakaway today, either me, Tim Wellens or Sander Armée. Joining the breakaway is of course easier said than done. It took a while until eventually seven riders got the freedom. Katusha did still ride to catch us because they got no rider in the break, but eventually they stopped pulling at the front. 70 kilometres had been covered until then. Unfortunately, Mitchelton-Scott kept the advantage limited to six minutes. You know that is not enough with a climb of seventeen kilometres at the end. I tried to escape from the breakaway but had a bad moment and was eventually distanced. The peloton was quickly approaching, so I realised pretty fast the break would not last till the very end. But I am happy with my shape and I hope other opportunities will follow in the rest of the Giro.”