André Greipel: ‘If I was riding for money I would have stayed with Arkéa and made next year a holiday’

The German star is reluctant to talk about 2019 but is still motivated for next season

André Greipel says he’s not just pinning on his number as he returns to the WorldTour next season.

The sprinting superstar had a turbulent 2019 season, struggling to find his legs and then leaving Arkéa-Samsic before the end of his contract.

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Greipel has now been picked up by Israel Cycling Academy, who jump to the WorldTour next season under their new name, Israel Start Up Nation.

When asked about the last year, the 37-year-old told Cycling Weekly: “No comment. I don’t talk about last year. I’m just thankful they let me out of the contract.”

But looking ahead to 2020, Greipel added: “If I was riding my bike for money, I would have stayed with Arkéa and made a holiday out of next year, but no that’s not my characteristic.

“I want to perform, I’m not just pinning my number on.

“That’s what I want to do next year, get back on the level where I was.”

Greipel made the step down from WorldTour level from Lotto-Soudal to French Professional Continental outfit Arkéa-Samsic at the start of 2019, taking an early win in La Tropicale Amissa Bongo in January but struggling to reach the podium since.

In October, he announced he would be leaving Arkéa after he asked team management to terminate his contract.

Team manger Emmanuel Hubert said he was disappointed with Greipel’s performances this season and that he did not oppose his leaving the team.

Greipel said he struggled with a bacterial disease that affected the first half of his 2019 season, only reaching full fitness two weeks before the Tour de France.

Last month, Israel Cycling academy announced that they had signed Greipel as the squad takes over Katusha-Alpecin to reach cycling’s top tier.

Speaking from the official team launch in Tel Aviv, Israel this week, Greipel added: “I started talking with [Israel Cycling Academy] on October 5 and we really found an agreement. I want to ride my bike, because I love it.

“Of course getting back to a WorldTour was my aim, plus they have ambitious riders.

“So that’s why I’m here, sharing my experience, trying to make the best out of the winter of my career.”

Israel Cycling Academy has signed a strong selection of riders for 2020, including Greipel, Dan Martin, Germans Nils Politt and Rick Zabel, and British time trial champion Alex Dowsett.

With Dowsett and Zabel forming part of a formidable lead-out train – both previously rode in support of Marcel Kittel at Katusha-Alpecin – Greipel is optimistic about his chances of returning to form.

He said: “We have a really good potential train, but for that we have to start practising which hasn’t been possible yet.

“I know they are strong, but to be good you need to bring it out on the road. You can practice all you want, but if you don’t have the experience then it’s not going to work out.

“The first thing we want is to get results with Nils in the Classics and I’ll try to get back on my level in the sprints.”

With a WorldTour licence comes a guaranteed spot in the Tour for Israel Start Up Nation, but Greipel isn’t dwelling on that race yet: “We’ve left everything open. I said I just want to start the season. If I can start in a good way, then choices are easier to make than they are now in December.”