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Stapleton expects Cav’, Griepel to settle feud personally

HTC-Columbia owner Bob Stapleton expects that teammates Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel will settle their differences personally.

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Bob Stapleton expects his star speedsters to settle their differences personally. Photo: Andrew Hood (file)

Addressing comments HTC-Columbia star sprinter Mark Cavendish made last week about his teammate Andre Greipel, team owner Bob Stapleton told VeloNews “they’ll handle it personally.”

Standing outside the HTC-Columbia team bus at the Paris-Roubaix start line in Compiegne, Bob Stapleton told VeloNews he’d spoken with both men after Cavendish’s comments ran in The Guardian last week.

Cavendish had choice words about his teammate, the German sprinter who has expressed displeasure about being overlooked for the team’s squad for the Tour de France, which he has never started. Among Cav’s statements were, “me on bad form is still better than him,” and “there’s no chance whatsoever that he’s coming to a bike race that I’m in.”

Stapleton clearly wasn’t happy about the infighting. “These are competitive guys, and I think they should focus their attention on the bike,” he said. “I think any ambitions they’ve got, they’ll handle it personally.”

From 2008 to 2009, Greipel won 34 races. Only Cavendish had more, with 40.

Greipel started the 2008 season with an overall win at the Tour Down Under and finished the season with 14 wins. His 2009 season began with a shoulder injury at the Tour Down Under, but he went on to take 20 wins in just 76 days of racing. This year “Andre the Giant” has won stages at the Tour Down Under and Volta a Algarve; on Sunday he won the prologue of the Tour of Turkey, and on Monday he won the opening stage’s field sprint.

After a promising 2008 season, Cavendish emerged in 2009 as the top sprinter in the sport, winning Milan-San Remo and six Tour stages. But his 2010 season has been marred by a tooth infection that kept him off the bike. He went uncharacteristically winless in his season debut at Ruta del Sol, and lost to Theo Bos at the Clásica de Almería. In March he withdrew from the Vuelta Catalunya after taking his first win of the season. Cavendish crashed twice at Milan-San Remo in March, and did not finish the Tour of Flanders after a crash damaged his bike.

Stapleton acknowledged that in Cavendish and Greipel he’s got two of the sport’s top sprinters on his squad, adding that both are world-class athletes accustomed to winning.

“You’ve got guys who are trying to do things. Mark wants to get back in shape, he’s super competitive, and sometimes that shows up in ways that are less desirable,” Stapleton said. “He’s said it himself: ‘When I’ve got my helmet on, don’t listen to me.’ So I’d kind of put it in that camp.”

So far this season, the two men have not raced together. Looking ahead, Greipel is slated to ride the Giro d’Italia, while Cavendish, against his desires, has been pegged for the Amgen Tour of California.

Team management hasn’t announced its Tour de France long list, but after Cav’s six stage wins and run at the green jersey last year, it’s a no-brainer that the Manx Missile will be on the start line in Rotterdam in July. Given Cav’s statements, Greipel’s inclusion isn’t so certain.

Asked if, as Cavendish said, the two sprinters would not race together, Stapleton answered: “They’re going to race as teammates whenever they’re called upon to do that. It doesn’t make sense for us to put two top sprinters together in a lot of cases. We’ve got multiple races to do, that we plan to win.

“If we see them together, I’m sure they’ll work together, but I do think it’s unlikely; most of the time we have multiple races, multiple calendars, and I think it makes the most sense to go and win both of those races. We’ve got two of the winningest guys in the sport.”

Stapleton acknowledged that Greipel’s contract with the team ends this year. Asked if he’d like to keep Greipel on the squad given the growing rift between the two sprinters, Stapleton answered, “We’d like to keep all of our quality riders, and Andre is a guy we’ve had for a few years, he’s grown well in the program. I think very highly of him.”

As for Greipel’s expressed sentiment that he has been appointed second fiddle to Cavendish, Stapleton said: “I think people pump that up a lot. Andre likes to win, and he gets good team support.

“He had good support at the Tour Down Under, a race he’s very popular at, and he did very well. He’s going to have good team support at the Giro, and I think he’ll do very well there. He had good support at the Vuelta where he did very well. So I think we are a big enough and strong enough team to support multiple races and multiple riders. If we can’t do that, then the management hasn’t done a very good job.”