It may have been inevitable, but it was brutal and brilliant. Andre Greipel took out Stage One of this year’s Tour Down Under in emphatic style, putting daylight between him and some of the world’s top quick men.
Lotto were, again, superb in keeping control of the race, positioning their man and letting him do his thing. And that thing is to crush everyone in his way. Greg Henderson was describing the finish to his teammates post race, “He pulled out with 200 to go and just *motorbike noise*, and I thought ‘F**k me….” Quite Gregory. Quite.
The boy from Rostock, in the old East, has come a long way from his days as the number two at HTC. He was winning races in Australia 5 years ago, but seemed destined to be the man who was good, but “wasn’t Cav”. The move to Lotto 2 years ago changed everything.
Now Greipel is the most feared fastman around. His team are the number one lead out train by a distance. It’s no coincidence. Andre handpicked ex-HTC riders like Sieberg and Hansen to come to Lotto with him. He believes in them. They would crawl over broken class to deliver their man to the line. Lotto are the very definition of the word team. Each victory for Andre, is a victory for the guys drifting across the line in his wake.
On the bike, a machine. A brutal winning machine. Greipel snapped five chains in training for the race in two days. Off the bike, a quiet, friendly, thoroughly decent guy. One of the most well liked in the bunch. You won’t get a “f**k off” to any journos from Gringo.
Which brings us to Cav, and seemingly Greipel will never quite escape being bracketed with the Manx Missile. Five years ago, it was Cav being in the team that stopped Greipel grabbing the limelight. In Copenhagen eighteen months ago, it’s was British Gold to German Bronze. In 2012, they traded Tour wins. Greipel with the Lotto train. Cav living off Sky scraps.
In 2013 it will be a battle royale. The two fast men on rival Belgian teams. Both littered with the remains of HTC. Sieberg, Henderson, Hansen, Greipel. Velits, Grabsch, Martin, Cavendish. Greipel v Cavendish. Same as it ever was.