German André Greipel shot around the bend final sweeping bend and over the line first at the Tour de France yesterday. He won his first ever stage and, making extra special, he took it against Mark Cavendish.
“It is a symbol,” Omega Pharma-Lotto’s team manager, Marc Sergeant told Cycling Weekly. “This is a race he was never able to participate in because he was in Cavendish’s team. Now he can because he’s in another team, and winning against Cavendish must be something special for him.”
Sergeant signed Greipel last year when his contracted ended with HTC-Highroad, where he had spent five years in the team with Mark Cavendish. He told Greipel to focus simply on the big wins, not pulling in numerous smaller ones.
Up until last year, Greipel raced in the same team as Cavendish, where he had often gone on winning sprees. Last year, he won numerous races from stages at the Tour of Down Under to the Vuelta a España, but failed the race the Tour because Cavendish proved his speed early on with the team.
In 2008, Cavendish five stages at the Tour de France. He now has 17.
“Cavendish has been the number one sprinter since his first Grand Tour stage win in 2008,” HTC’s coach, Erik Zabel told Cycling Weekly.
“Of course, it’s harder for him because he’s won 17 stages in the Tour. He’s a title defender, he’s the main favourite when coming to a bunch sprint. All sprinters want to beat him, especially André because they were team-mates for several years and there was this competition between the two sprinters, two classy sprinters.
“Cav wanted to win today and it’s not easy for him to be beaten by Andre.”
Zabel explained that the team was committed to Cavendish yesterday in the 10th leg to Carmaux. Team-mate Tony Martin chased down an attack by Greipel’s team-mate, Philippe Gilbert in the final 15 kilometres. Gilbert wanted to put Cavendish on the defence and possibly sneak clear for green jersey points.
Cavendish gained 44 points yesterday: nine from winning in the intermediate sprint for seventh and 35 for placing second to Greipel. Gilbert leads the competition by 29 points over Cavendish and told Cycling Weekly that he wants to try to win the jersey by Paris.
“He’s coming close now,” Zabel said of Cavendish. “It was a big chance, with the stage win, we would have been close.”
HTC will have its last chance for a few days today. The 167.5-kilometre leg to Lavaur suits sprinters and should see another showdown between the two former team-mates.
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