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"I was always confident that I’d win something here. In the inaugural criterium in Adelaide and in stage 1, I just made mistakes but that can happen in sprinting," Greipel says

Photo: Sirotti

ADAM HANSEN

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ANDRÉ GREIPEL

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JURGEN ROELANDTS

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LOTTO-DSTNY

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TOUR DOWN UNDER

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24.01.2014 @ 12:00 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Andre Greipel underlined his position as the best rider in the Tour Down Under history when he crushed the opposition in the sprint at the end of a very dramatic day in the Australian race. Having been narrowly edged out on the first two days of racing in 2014, the German champion insisted that he never doubted that he would again return from Australia with a win in his pocket.

 

At the start of a new season it is very unusual for Andre Greipel to have four days of racing under his belt without having a won a race yet. After all, the German champion is the most successful rider in the Tour Down Under history and entered the race with 14 stage wins and several wins in the opening People's Choice Classic criterium already on his palmares.

 

However, an unusually tough course for the 2014 edition of the race had put the sprinters on the back foot right from the beginning so when Greipel lined up for today's fourth stage his first win was still missing. After being narrowly beaten by Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) in the opening criterium, he had been surprisingly defeated by Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) on the first stage of the opening WorldTour race of the season.

 

The fourth stage offered the first real chance for the sprinters in the stage race and Greipel started the day with the firm intention of making up for his near-misses. His team showed their intentions right from the beginning when they helped chase the early break and when the peloton split in the crosswinds, the team was one of the driving forces to both make it happen and make sure that the second group - containing Kittel and most of the pure sprinters - never returned.

 

Finally, the team chased down late attacks from Cameron Wurf, Jan Bakelants and Serge Pauwels and then executed their well-drilled lead-out perfectly. Their dominance was so impressive that lead-out man Jurgen Roelandts could even hold onto second.

 

Afterwards, Greipel refused that he had started to panic and he always felt that he would be able to leave the race with a win in his pocket.

 

"I was always confident that I’d win something here. In the inaugural criterium in Adelaide and in stage 1, I just made mistakes but that can happen in sprinting," he said. ""Before today’s stage, I thought this would be the first day for a sprint. Coming first and second says enough of the great work our team Lotto-Belisol has done today."

 

Greipel praised his team for the role they had played in splitting the bunch.

 

"It was nervous all along, Orica-GreeenEDGE had six guys at the front of the bunch but we put pressure on them after the intermediate sprint," he explained. "I know the area of Victor Harbor pretty well. I know the last climb too. It’s quite open to the wind. The way we rode as a team makes it a well deserved win. At the right moment we raised the pressure which resulted in a split of the peloton."

 

Greipel now looks ahead to Sunday's final criterium in Adelaide which should again suit the sprinters.

 

"Of course I'm glad I could take my first victory," he said. "This well-deserved victory is great. The team is rewarded for its work. The confidence was there, but because of the victory we are all the more looking forward to the final stage on Sunday."

 

With Greipel being one of only a few sprinters to have made the front group, Roelandts admitted that he had felt the pressure.

 

"I was a bit nervous with 8km to go because we had all the pressure to win," he said. "We hit that last chicane with André in perfect position and after leading him out, I sat up a bit, but when I saw no one coming around me, I restarted my sprint to finish second. That's always nice for the points and the confidence, knowing the work over the winter has paid off."

 

While Greipel will wait until Sunday to strike again, tomorrow is a day for the team's GC rider Adam Hansen. The Australian moved up a spot on GC from 13th to 12th and remains 33 seconds off the lead of Cadel Evans (BMC).

 

By finishing 3rd on the day's only categorized climb, Hansen also defended the lead in the mountains classification but he insists that the GC is the priority on tomorrow's queen stage to the top of Willunga Hill while the most important are still more wins for Greipel.

 

"To win with André is why we’re here and today was our big goal with him," he said. "I just stayed near him as much as possible during the stage and did my job when attacks went in the final hill. I closed the gap to the attackers and made sure I had my guys in a good position to lead André out. He’s one of the best sprinters in the world so we always believe in him to be able to win."

 

Lotto Belisol also had their share of bad luck today as Olivier Kaisen had to abandon the race. No explanation for his withdrawal has been given.

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