Tour de France 2015: Andre Greipel adds to German glee

The sprinter bagged his second stage victory in four days

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The Independent Online

German cycling’s remarkable run of success in this year’s Tour de France continued apace when Rostock-born André Greipel claimed a finely-calculated sprint  victory – his second win in four days.

Seemingly blocked in as the 80-strong lead group barreled its way through an undulating final kilometre in Amiens, Greipel impressively powered his way round the end of the front wave of sprinters and then made a searing acceleration towards the line.

Narrowly fending off the fast-accelerating Czech contender Peter Sagan by only a wheel’s width, the 32-year-old sprinter punched the sky to celebrate the eighth Tour stage victory of his career.

Dubbed “the Gorilla” or “Hulk” because of his hefty build, Greipel’s win means the Lotto-Soudal rider reinforced his already commanding lead in the points classification, and – almost inevitably given the green jersey that goes with that competition – considerably increased the odds on the media using yet another of  his nicknames, “the Jolly Green Giant”.

Greipel was certainly in a cheerful mood following his victory, which proves he has amply filled the gap left by compatriot and fellow sprinter Marcel Kittel, unable to start the Tour because of the effects of a virus.

 

When asked why Germany had so many good sprinters, Greipel joked that “obviously my parents did a good job and gave me a lot of fast-twitch muscles”, the muscle type most beneficial when it comes to cranking out high speeds on a bike.

It also continues a tradition of first-week sprint success for his country. Last year Germans took three sprints out of the Tour’s first six, and two out of six in 2013.

German cycling is certainly on a roll in this year’s Tour, with time trialist Tony Martin continuing in yellow after his own stage win in Cambrai on Tuesday. Their streak of success comes, handily enough, in a year when German public broadcaster ARD has returned to live broadcasting of the race for the first time since 2012.

“The pressure was really high on us to do well, and I’m very happy we could do it,” Martin said. “Three wins in five stages and the yellow jersey, that couldn’t be a better start for us.”

Britain’s Mark Cavendish, on the other hand, continues to pursue his first Tour stage win since 2013 after another lengthy sprint effort – as on stage two in Zélande – failed to net the Isle of Man rider  the victory.

Third on the day, Cavendish took his defeat on the chin and said: “The other day it was a mistake we made, we [Etixx-Quick Step] make one mistake in every 500 races we do. Today I was just beaten.” He  then suggested to journalists that “instead of the news  being that I’m beaten today, maybe write the news that Greipel won”.

On another crash-torn stage, another of Greipel’s rivals, France’s top sprinter Nacer Bouhanni, abandoned after one pile-up too many, 10.5 kilometres into the race.

Bouhanni had no broken bones, but falling hard worsened injuries in his ribs, wrist and hip incurred in last month’s French national championships and which had already provoked a will-he-won’t-he mini-drama in local media over whether he would start the Tour. Five days later, he is out.

The Tour offered its own recognition to the bravery of its riders after Australian Michael Matthews, battling against severely bruised ribs from Monday’s crash, was awarded the prize for Most Combative Rider.

“It was a nice gesture, after spending half the race off the back, to get some recognition,” Matthews  said afterwards, “the ribs are hurting more and more.”

Matthews sought to boost his morale by drawing on northern France’s battle-torn past. He added: “Going past [First World War Somme] memorials to so many Australian [soldiers], that helped me keep going today.”

Chris Froome remains in second overall, 12 seconds behind Martin.

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