AMIENS, France (VN) — “You have the fast-twitching muscles or you don’t have them,” Lotto-Soudal’s German sprinter André Greipel explained to the assembled press core. “I think my parents did a good job as I have some fast-twitching muscles.”
Greipel, nicknamed the Gorilla for his bulky stature, proved on Wednesday just how fast his muscles are.
Two messy, unconventional sprint finishes thus far this Tour de France have resulted in two big wins for Greipel. Twice he’s beaten rivals Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick-Step) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), first out of an echelon-cut group of 25 in Zélande and then in a lead-out-free scramble to the line in Amiens.
Greipel, whose key lead-out man, Greg Henderson, is still recovering from injury, described an unpredictable finale of the Tour’s fifth stage, bereft of the organization usually provided for by both his Lotto team and Etixx.
“I think it was quite an interesting sprint; none of the sprinters had the real lead-out men in the last 400m. So everybody had to time his sprint somehow,” he said after the finish, which saw him take the win just ahead of a quickly gaining Sagan and a fading Cavendish.
“Today it was quite hectic day. You had to save energy; you had to time your sprint right. It was a headwind sprint at the end. Maybe I just had the right position at the right moment to time my sprint,” he said.
Gorilla in green
Lotto-Soudal’s Marc Sergent suggested, following the stage, that the team’s emphasis could turn to the green jersey, and Greipel’s own efforts in intermediate sprints this week suggest it’s in the back of his mind. But the German still insists that stage wins are the priority.
But the green jersey is firmly on his shoulders, at least for now. He has 151 points to Sagan’s 119.
“That’s news [to] me,” he said of Sergents comments. “The focus is to go for stage wins. We won already two now. I’m still ahead [in the points classification], even if it’s not such a big difference between [Peter] Sagan and me. I’m pretty sure Sagan will on the hilly days get more points than me.”
It may not be his primary focus, but Greipel said he is “enjoying every day” with the green jersey on his shoulders. “I have the green jersey, I will not give it away just like that,” he said.
German success, broadcast home
For the second year in a row, the first week of the Tour de France has been dominated by Germans. The nation has won three out of five stages thus far, and holds the yellow jersey.
This Tour is also the first to be broadcast on German television since a string of doping scandals turned the public off cycling nearly a decade ago. The return of a Tour broadcast is largely thanks to the success of a new generation of Germans, men like Greipel, maillot jaune Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick-Step), John Degenkolb and Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin).
The significance of their Tour achievements being broadcast back home was not lost on Greipel or compatriot Martin.
“I think it’s also a big honor, after four or five successful years of the German riders. It’s also something we can be proud of,” Greipel said. “With our victories we could get the attention of the Tour de France back to Germany.”
“The pressure was really high to show now what we’re able to do, and to repeat what we did in the past,” said Martin. “I’m really, really happy that we could do it so early in this Tour, five stages, three wins, the yellow jersey, I can’t expect a better start for German cycling.”