TH E C HAN G I N G O F TH E G UAR D

Procycling - - Le Tour -

Y ou can out­sprint your ri­vals year in, year out, but you won’t hold off the ad­vanc­ing years. 2017 was the first sea­son in An­dré Greipel’s ca­reer that he didn’t win at least one Tour stage when par­tic­i­pat­ing. He made his de­but at the com­par­a­tively late age of 28 in 2011, hav­ing served as Cavendish’s un­der­study at the HTC team be­fore trans­fer­ring to Lotto, and took a sin­gle win that year. His run of six con­sec­u­tive Tours with at least one stage win (which peaked in 2015 with four) was a rare feat. Only three riders in the his­tory of cy­cling have man­aged more.

But though Greipel came close last year, with three thirds and a sec­ond, his run came to an end. It would be easy to sug­gest that at 35 (and 36, fol­low­ing his birth­day on the An­necy rest day), Greipel is past it at the Tour de France, but even with a twom­onth hia­tus fol­low­ing him break­ing his col­lar­bone at Mi­lan-San Remo, Greipel has won six races this year. Only Vi­viani, Groe­newe­gen and Gaviria have won more.

Greipel’s as­set, be­yond strength and speed, is his per­se­ver­ance. Rob­bie McEwen once said of him that de­feat doesn’t knock him off his tra­jec­tory – he’s con­fi­dent in his meth­ods and trusts that if he fol­lows them, he’ll even­tu­ally win. He also has a sup­port­ive team – Lotto Soudal - with no real GC con­tender other than Tiesj Benoot, who is still ex­per­i­ment­ing with his tal­ents so can’t mo­nop­o­lise the team’s re­sources. Time is surely run­ning out for Greipel to add to his ca­reer to­tal of 11 wins – will the chang­ing of the guard hap­pen this year?

Greipel will turn 36 at this year's Tour but still has his eye on win­ning a stage

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