André Greipel attributed a change of tactics as one of the key reasons behind his first win of this year’s Tour de France at the fourth time of asking in Reims this afternoon.
Greipel, now a six-time stage winner in the Tour, had previously failed to deliver in Harrogate, London and Lille despite the almost constant pulling from his Lotto-Belisol team-mates.
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But with Greg Henderson retiring on stage four, and Bart de Clercq still feeling the effects of a crash on the same day, the 32-year-old’s team modified their strategy en route to the ancient city today.
“We had to gamble a bit today,” he said. “We worked hard for the first days, we worked a bit less today because we are virtually two guys down.
“It was nervous to stay in front; there was a lot of pressure from Omega Pharma-Quick Step in the wind, so I was glad to still be in position for the sprint.”
Dominant sprinter Marcel Kittel failed to contest the finish, seemingly feeling the effects of a crash on stage five. In his absence, Omega Pharma sought to surprise the peloton when Pole Michal Kwiatkowski attacked entering the final kilometre. That’s when Greipel’s waiting game came to an end.
He added: “I think it was a good attack from Kwiatkowski, and we had to stay calm. At 250m to go, I said to myself ‘now I go’.
“On wide roads the finish always seems so close. It was a pretty long sprint, but I managed to power my way to the line.”