Lotto Belisol star set to line-up with other sprinters at Milan-San Remo
Andre Greipel may have his best chance yet to secure a career first Monument at Sunday’s Milan-San Remo after an exceptionally sound season start.
The 31-year-old is considered one of the WorldTour’s top three pure sprinters, alongside Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) and Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), although has shown unparalleled power in some of six victories this year.
It bodes well for La Classica di Primavera, which Greipel is set to enter off the back of a strong performance at Tirreno-Adriatico that concludes tomorrow with an individual time trial.
The German in stage three, which Peter Sagan (Cannondale) won, was the only pure sprinter to stay with the front group on the uphill drag to the finish that topped out at 11 per cent. In stage six today he survived the main climbs but was hampered by a crash, which involved teammates, in the finale.
“I’m certain he can win a spring classic,” Lotto Belisol manager Marc Sergeant told Cycling Weekly. “For years I’ve been telling him he’s able to win one.
“I’m sure he can win races like Gent-Wevelgem and Scheldeprijs. I even count Milan-San Remo because he’s one of the sprinters that can go uphill pretty good, which he showed obviously in [the Tour of] Oman.”
The five-time Tour de France stage winner is virtually the only pure sprinter that starts the first three Monuments of the year. His impetus in racing the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix is selflessly divided but the experience could lead to more noteworthy performances there in future.
Greipel has ambitions to be crowned a road world champion and the next chance of that, for sprinters, looks to be Qatar 2016. You could though entertain the possibility of the Gorilla, in time, making the transition from sprinter to more classics rider as others, like Tom Boonen and Thor Hushovd, have before him.
“Last year he was not on the list for the Tour of Flanders but then we suggested it because we needed a valued rider like him to be in the final to help Jurgen Roelandts,” Sergeant said.
“He realised that’s one of the men he needs most in the year, Jurgen Roelandts, and said, ‘I’m going to do something in return for you.’ And he did.
“That was the best race he did, if you saw the classics, because he was involved in the break in the final. The last 60km they [main group] had to chase and Jurgen [who finished third] was always in a comfortable position.”
Milan-San Remo has enticed sprinters back with the Pompeiana and Le Manie both omitted from this year’s 298km course. Sagan as well as Paris-Nice stage winner and points champion John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) are shaping as some of the favourites.
British Eurosport will broadcast the race live on Sunday from 1.00pm GMT.