ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (VN) — German André Greipel is known for his grand tour sprints, but loves and respects the cobbled classics, like Paris-Roubaix, that he will return to them this spring to help Lotto Soudal.
Greipel each year finds a spot on his schedule to race the cobbled classics after Milano-Sanremo and a way to smash his rivals with attacks on the muurs or sectors. But why not just save his strength for the grand tours, where he already counts seven stage wins in the Giro d’Italia and 11 in the Tour de France?
“Because it’s a piece of history in cycling and it’s nice to be part of these races,” Greipel told VeloNews.
“It fits a bit of my characteristics of a racer. Of course, I’m a sprinter and I have to wait a lot to do the sprints, but at the end of the day, I like to race how they do in the classics.”
This year’s Tour of Flanders runs April 1 and Paris-Roubaix the week after, April 8.
Some wonder why Greipel rides the toughest classics when the other sprinters skip them to save themselves solely for Milano-Sanremo, Scheldeprijs, or the grand tours later on. But the 35-year-old German has a good understanding of cycling’s history and what the races mean, especially for a Belgian team like Lotto-Soudal.
Greipel attacked last year in the Tour of Flanders and led with Tom Boonen and Peter Sagan in Paris-Roubaix. He placed seventh in the Roubaix Velodrome behind Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing). He has competed in those races nearly every year since joining Lotto Soudal from Team Highroad in 2011.
“Those two and a half weeks, those teams and the whole country live for those classics,” Greipel said. “It’s a special atmosphere and it’s an important time for us.
“We have a lot of leaders with Jens Keukeleire, Tiesj Benoot … We will find out in the race, but it’s not about waiting for [Peter] Sagan, [Alexander] Kristoff or [Greg] Van Avermaet, you have to take the race in hands and try to risk something.”
Paris-Roubaix’s honor roll includes sprinters like John Degenkolb, Tom Boonen, Stuart O’Grady, and Magnus Backstedt.
“For sure, you need to have a bit of power in the legs to survive those races, you need to be good in positioning, of course, and in the mind to know what’s coming up in the next sectors,” Greipel said.
“A dream to win Roubaix? It would be a bit too much to say I can win a classic or something, but I do want to make the best out of it, try my best.
“Of course, I wouldn’t say no, but it’s really a tough race and I know that everything has to be right to win it.”
Greipel’s big one day victories include the 2015 Vattenfall Cyclassics and twice the Brussels Cycling Classic.