German André Greipel is back in Australia to win again at Tour Down Under next week. He won three stages and the overall last year, but this year, whether he likes it or not, the attention is on his duel with former team-mate Mark Cavendish.
“I just want to do my thing,” said Greipel. “If I want to win races, I got to beat him as well.”
“Him” is Mark Cavendish, who has won 15 Tour de France stages and is racing the Tour Down Under for the first time. It is also the first time that the two will face each other as sprint rivals since they publicly criticised each other as HTC team-mates last year.
Greipel moved to Belgian team OmegaPharma-Lotto this off-season. He considers himself and Cavendish as the Tour Down Under’s top 10 sprinters with Robbie McEwen (RadioShack), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo), Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad), Juan José Haedo (Saxo Bank-SunGard), Francesco Chicchi (Quick Step), Graeme Brown (Rabobank), Michael Matthews (Rabobank) and Allan Davis (Astana).
“My goal? To win a stage, the rest is extra,” added Greipel. “It is always strange when you come to the first race of the season, no one knows anyone’s condition. It is the same here, we have a new team and we need to see out each other is riding.”
Greipel will likely rely on Jürgen Roelandts as his final lead-out man at the Tour Down Under. He will also have the help of former HTC rider, Vicente Reynes, Adam Hansen and Marcel Sieberg. He is happy with the mix of riders and looks forward to racing with his other OmegaPharma team-mates in Europe, including 21-year-old Brit Adam Blythe.
“He won four or five races last season. If he continues as he did last season, he can be one of the good sprinters. Adam is 21, maybe in two or three years if I am still in the team…”
He will be your next British team rival?
“No! I will be loyal, if someone is going well I will support him,” said Greipel. “I will be loyal to everyone; I was also that way with Cav. When he replies or says something stupid about me, of course, I am angry.”
Greipel reflected on those feuds and his time with HTC and said that he is only regretful that he was unable to participate in the big sprinters’ races, like Milan-San Remo and the Tour de France. He admitted, though, that HTC had a hard decision.
“There was Mark Cavendish, he is one of the fastest riders in the bunch, it was hard for the team. If I was [HTC's sports director] Rolf Aldag, it would be hard to decide which rider takes part in what race,” said Greipel.
“I had a lot of support [from HTC]. Okay, I never did the Tour de France, but in every other race I was in, I had the support of the team. Two years ago, I had a hard crash and the team supported me. That was important. In every other team, though, I would have raced the Tour de France.”
The Tour de France is this July, but the Tour Down Under starts on Sunday with a pre-race criterium. The first road stage covers 138-kilometres to Angaston on Tuesday.