For other greipel it all feels like a rough farewell tour. In his ninth participation, the 36-year-old veteran may once again throw himself into the sprints, torture up the mountains and toil in the time trials. And then never again tour de france?
"I’m going in like it’s my last tour," says pro cyclist greipel. From the first-class lotto team he switched to aubenseiter arkea-samsic for the new season. Even his own performance no longer has much in common with the powerful sprinter who once won eleven tour de france stages.
"My year has been pretty mixed. I just haven’t been able to deliver the performance I’m used to. The last six months have been anything but easy," complained the formerly so fast "gorilla" – greipel’s nickname. For the tour team manager emmanuel hubert called him nevertheless, for the rough sprint victories from the peloton final speed and strength are no longer enough.
The fact that the hurther got fit again so quickly is a great surprise. At the tour’s dress rehearsal, the criterium du dauphine, greipel had still overtaxed his body and suffered greatly. A bacterial illness in his stomach had previously troubled the sprinter in may, he felt weak and could no longer find his strength. During the dauphine, his body asked him: "what are you doing to me??", reported greipel.
Things are hardly better in the tour so far. 18th place at the first sprint finish in brussel, 12th place at the mass final in nancy on tuesday. For a former world-class sprinter, it’s a sporting flop. "In the end, in a sprint like that, you have to be glad you stayed on the bike," greipel commented in nancy. The rostock native is virtually on his own with the french racing team. His friend robert wagner, who was scheduled to help him, was absent for a long time and has already announced the end of his career. "Racing is no longer fun for me," wagner said.
The world’s greatest cycling race has given greipel so many fine moments, including a prestigious victory in the 2016 final in paris, arguably the greatest success of his career. "The victory on the champs elysees is a very special one. No one can take that away from you," said greipel with fond memories.
He has quickly acclimatized to his new home, and speaks french slowly but clearly at media appointments. "I paid quite good attention in school," says the veteran. Only athletically he had to accept the clear cut with increasing age and decreasing quality. "It doesn’t get easier with age. Physically I’m still the same, it’s more the mental aspect that you don’t take the risk anymore," greipel said.
The first very difficult mountain stage on this thursday was already giving him a hard time. "Sagan or viviani can go up the mountain, many good sprinters can go up the mountain well – but i can," explained the veteran rider.
Because arkea-samsic, where greipel still has a contract for 2020, is only in the tour on a wilcard, greipel is preparing for his rough tour final as early as this year. "I will try to get to paris. I try to get something out of it where something is possible," he said. One more stage in the tour, that will be enough for him, greipel said with a slight grin. But it really doesn’t look like that anymore.