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'You need a killer instinct' Andre Greipel still hungry for victory

Mark Bailey
3 May 2018

German sprinter & winner of 22 Grand Tour stages on his broken collarbone, the Tour de France, & his tense relationship with Mark Cavendish

We caught up with Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) while he continues his recovery from a crash and resulting broken collarbone that counted him out of much of the Classics Season.

Cyclist: Andre, you broke your collarbone at Milan-San Remo in March and tweeted: 'I’ll be back.'

When will we see you racing again?

Andre Greipel: First of all I have to see that my bone is growing together again and then I can start to prepare for some races.

I don’t remember much about the crash; I heard a noise and my teammate in front of me crashed so there was not much I could do about it. But it was not a nice feeling.

I heard the noise of the break so I knew it was a problem. I had never made it over the Poggio at San Remo before and I was pleased to get there.

Of course, it was a goal to go for a result there and it was working well until just 5km to go.

Cyc: Do you have extra interest in targeting the Classics in the future, given that you are with a Belgian team Lotto-Soudal?

AG: I was always interested in the Classics but I try to go for my own goals a bit more now. I think I also have more opportunities to do so. You have to live the Classics, that’s for sure.

The whole team and the whole country are living these weeks and you get affected somehow by being part of the team. I never say I will win them but I want to make the best possible results.

It is not easy - that’s what I know. But you always have to look for a new challenge for yourself. I think Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix are the Classics which suit me the best and these are what I will target in the future.

Cyc: Are you already preparing for the 2018 Tour de France?

AG: I need some races but I am looking forward to it. I have been out for six weeks already so a lot of guys are racing already. But a lot of people are saying to me: you will find out later what this hard work was all good for.

For the moment, I don’t feel so close to that, but I am looking forward, especially to the Tour, and I will be aiming for stage wins again.

Cyc: Who do you think will win the points jersey at the Giro d’Italia this month?

AG: I think Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) is going to be the one who will go away with a lot of victories there. He has a good team behind him now, plus he has a good bike as well which in this time of cycling makes the difference as well. He will be the guy to beat.

Cyc: You have won 22 stages of the Grand Tours. Do you remember your first Tour de France win on Stage 10 in 2011?

AG: Of course, I know it like it was yesterday. It was a special moment. Whoever you ask from the riders, we say the same: when you first come there, you think all these guys are crazy.

The way that sprinters prepare for the Tour is totally different to any other race. You have to set your mind for that and you have to deal with it.

Everything came to plan on this day and I was pretty emotional and proud that I could show I could win those races as well. It is something I will still remember when I hopefully have some grandchildren.

Cyc: During a sprint do you think about how riders’ personalities and strengths will influence their tactics?

AG: I think first of all you need to have the passion for it and you need to be ready to challenge yourself. You have to think about the way of your own sprint.

The sprints get more powerful every year, as you can see, but they also get more technical. If you make a mistake it is difficult to win a race.

Someone like Viviani is not so powerful like Marcel Kittel or me but he is a pretty smart guy and he knows how to deal with it and adapt to a sprint.

It gets more and more complicated to do the right thing because the teams are important too. But in the last metres - as you have seen in the Tour where there are a lot of sprints where we all come close – you have to be smart enough to deal with it.

I think you need to have a killer instinct. We know our job well.

Cyc: You have big rivalries with sprinters like Marcel Kittel, Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan. Are you friends with them off the bike?

AG: For me, friendship is always a big word. I always teach my daughters that you cannot have 10 friends. It is impossible. You have two good friends. But I always call it respect. And for sure I have a different connection to Kittel than with Cav, that’s for sure.

But yeah, for example Kittel is a nice guy and Cav is always somebody who is hard to deal with. He always has a special connection to me, I would say. But I never… how do I say it? I never want something bad for him but he thinks I want to have something bad towards him, which is not the case.

I have great respect for him. I mean, he is the biggest sprinter in our generation so chapeau for him and for everything he has done in the past.

Cyc: Which sprinters did you admire the most when you were younger?

AG: I was behind (the 1990 Tour de France green jersey winner) Olaf Ludwig who brought me into cycling when I was young.

He brought me through the first time I was in the youth team. Then he brought me to my first contract with T-Mobile and somehow he has always been the guy who has inspired me.

In 1993-94 when I really started to follow cycling he was the one I tried to learn from.

Cyc: How have you been training to get back to fitness?

AG: I was immediately on Zwift and I was actually one of the first ones to use it anyway. Of course, I have good support from the guys in the team, and they prepared everything to have me training better on Zwift so it worked out well.

The basics were there anyway so it is just about doing some intensity to keep some conditioning. I have already had four shoulder injuries on the right side so I know how to make rehab and fight my way back.

It tests me, of course. I have to protect the strength in my shoulder because this is important for me in the sprint. It is part of the muscle circle I am using in the sprint so I immediately know that if I don’t have the strength in my shoulder and arm it will be difficult to get the sprint numbers I had before.

That helps me to focus and do good rehab. But when you are young and hungry it is harder. I am still hungry but I know better how to deal with it than when I was younger.

Cyc: Are you looking forward to the new Hammer Series circuit races in Stavanger in May?

AG: I think it is exciting, especially the team time trial. Everybody who saw the last team trial would see it is a tactical race and the sprint race sees everybody racing against each other every lap.

It will probably change a little bit after the first event but for me it is the future to have races like this taking place on small courses where you can see all the action.

Andre Greipel's Lotto-Soudal team will be racing in the Hammer Series, the revolutionary international professional road cycling race, on 26th May 2018

To stream the Hammer Series live, visit www.facebook.com/hammerseries

Cyc: After a difficult winter with your mother passing away in December, you started the season strongly with two stage wins at the Tour Down Under in January.

Do you feel like this could still be a successful year?

AG: At the start of the season everything was pretty good. It is always nice to start the season successfully because it brings comfort to me and the team. But then everything that came afterwards was not as expected.

Cyc: Do you find it hard to watch races when you’re injured?

AG: Let’s say for sure it is not easy to see your teammates trying their best in the races. I didn’t watch them so much but I always watch a little bit of video coverage to get the breadth of the race.

But in the end I am more prepared to race than to watch.

Cyc: We interviewed your teammate Adam Hansen recently and he said he has been racing with you longer than he has been in a relationship with any of his girlfriends. Is loyalty important to you?

AG: I think it is important that sprinters have good riders behind you because you never win alone. I find it quite a privilege to have found a team like that in the past years.

We [Greipel and Hansen] have been working already 10 years together now [at Lotto and previously T-Mobile]. It is not so often you can see such a supportive team behind a rider and that is what makes the difference, which is why even at our age (Greipel is 35, Hansen is 36) we are still able to perform.

For me, it is always important to feel comfortable during a Grand Tour or any race. You have your friends around and I call them family.

Cyc: Does it make any difference to you when you have fans behind you?

AG: Of course it registers but for me it is just important to ride the bike, race the bike and try to do the best during the races and in training.

But I am a normal guy. I like to ride my bike. I made my hobby and my passion into a job. I cannot change the world but if I can help inspire people with the way I am dealing with the job then that is nice.

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