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By Andrew Hood
André Greipel doesn’t think there should be an asterisk next to his victory in Tuesday’s stage at the crash-marred finale at the Vuelta a España.
Greipel was only one of six riders to make it past a horrible accident that wiped out nearly all of the major sprinters, including Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream) and Tom Boonen (Quick Step).
“I was in the right position. My teammates did a good job to keep me in position and out of trouble,” Greipel said. “First of all, I am glad that no one hurt themselves badly and I hope everyone can take the rest day to recover. The final was like any stage, nothing out of the normal, but the roads were wet and the roundabout was dangerous where everyone crashed.”
The victory is Greipel’s 16th for the season, slotting him into second behind teammate Mark Cavendish, who has 21, as the most prolific on the year.
“I missed the Giro earlier this season because of my injury. I was four months off the bike, so I am happy that I am able to win races this year,” Greipel told VeloNews before the start of the stage. “I hope to win a stage. (Monday) was a bit of a mess in the final sprint, but Greg (Henderson) was able to win, so we are satisfied. I know my form is strong.”
Greipel, 27, has emerged as one of the top sprinters the past two seasons, winning 10 races in 2008.
Greipel has come into his own and takes over the mantle as Germany’s top sprinter from the now-retired Erik Zabel.
Raised in Rostock in northern Germany, the same hometown as Jan Ullrich, Greipel said he found inspiration to become a cyclist from an unlikely source for a young German boy growing up in the recently re-united Germany.
“I saw the move, ‘American Flyers,’ and that really inspired me,” he said. “After I saw that movie, I told my mom that I wanted to become a bike racer. I joined a local club and then the national team. That movie made cycling look great.”
The soggy peloton retreated into the Palace des Congrés hotel after the stage and took warm showers before an evening flight to Spain. After four successful, if wet, stages across Holland, Germany and Belgium, the peloton seemed anxious to return to the warmth to Spain.
“I cannot wait to get back to Spain,” said Cervélo’s José Angel Goméz Marchante. “It’s been great here with the public, this has been like the Tour de France. I wish it was like this during the entire Vuelta. The heat is better for me.”
The Vuelta clicks back into gear Thursday with the 174km fifth stage from Tarragona to Vinaròs. So far, prognostics of extreme heat seem over-hyped, at least in Tarragona, where temperatures are forecast to be in the upper 80s with partly cloudy skies.