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Greipel leaves Lotto for Pro Continental squad Fortuneo-Samsic

The German sprinter is departing Lotto-Soudal after the team signed young sprinter Caleb Ewan.

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — German sprinter André Greipel is leaving Lotto-Soudal for French Pro Continental team Fortuneo-Samsic.

“The Gorilla,” 36, found his options limited when the Belgian WorldTour team made a deal with Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan.

“I will try hard to advance this young and talented formation while pursuing my own goals,” Greipel said.

“Next season, I want to be on top form. I want to contribute with my riding qualities but also my personality and my experience. I’m looking forward to discovering my new role in this new environment.”

Said general manager Emmanuel Hubert: “By joining our team, André Greipel is taking a bold decision. At 36, he’s giving himself a new lease on life.

“He will discover a new team but also a new country and new races. I’m personally looking forward to seeing him riding with our jersey on big races like the Tour de France but also on local races.”

As a second-division squad, Fortuneo must rely on wildcard invitations to compete in the sport’s biggest races like the Tour de France. It should have no problems with Greipel, who has 11 Tour stage victories, and climber Warren Barguil.

Greipel last won at the Tour in 2016, when he capped the race by winning on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. In 2018, he has earned eight of Lotto’s 22 wins.

The German’s decision to leave Lotto after eight seasons came when news emerged that the 24-year-old sprinter Ewan would join the team from Mitchelton-Scott for 2019.

Lotto made an offer, but Greipel wanted more for what could be his last two seasons. The team reportedly only offered one instead of two years and could not guarantee he would lead its sprint arm at the big races.

“Greipel wanted to wait until the Tour’s second day of rest to make a decision, so his future was a question that was dragged along,” Lotto-Soudal general manager Marc Sergeant told Sporza. “Maybe the Tour was disappointed.

“The proposal was already on the table. He phoned in tears, saying that he did not want to accept our proposal.

“His decision was a disappointment because we experienced nice years with André. I remember well that we were jumping with joy on the Champs-Élysées when he won there for the first time. I will also be eternally grateful to him for that.”

Greipel counts a massive 153 wins since starting in 2005. He rode for T-Mobile/Highroad and then left after tension emerged with Mark Cavendish to join Lotto.

He abandoned, like many sprinters, in the recent Tour de France. He placed third on stage 4 and fourth in another. In stage 12 heading to Alpe d’Huez, he quit with Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) and Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo).

Greipel later made headlines from home when he insinuated that Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) held onto a team car in the mountains. Démare shot back, “I thought you were smarter.”

That led to an apology. Greipel said he looked at the wrong data and called it a “lesson learned.”

Greipel will be in action again later this month at the Tour of Poland.