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