Yesterday André Greipel of Lotto-Soudal won what many refer to as “the unofficial World Championships” for sprinters on Stage 21 of the Tour de France. The famous Champs-Elysées finish is considered one the hardest to win as the long straight finish after numerous hard laps leave only the strongest riders a chance for the win. While it may have been the first stage win for André in this year’s tour, he made it count when it was needed. “The Gorilla”, as many call him, made it the second 2016 Tour de France stage win for the Lotto-Soudal team, and his eighth win of the season. This result marks Greipel’s eleventh consecutive grand tour victory as well as his sixth consecutive year winning a Tour de France stage.
The Lotto-Soudal team was in the perfect position over the last few kilometers, reaching the final straightaway with Greipel in third position. In the last meters, he launched his sprint, and took the victory over Peter Sagan (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Alexander Kristoff (Team Katusha).
André Greipel: “At last the sun is shining. The past weeks we did our utter best to achieve our goals, but unfortunately without success. If you win the final stage on the Champs-Elysées it was worth fighting for though. For sprinters this is the most beautiful place on earth to win. I have to thank everyone at Lotto-Soudal for believing in me. The past years we achieved a lot together. I am proud of that. Without my team I wouldn’t have been able to set these kind of results for so many years.”
Manager Marc Sergeant: “The goals before this Tour were clear: try to win a stage with André Greipel and give some riders the freedom to show themselves. It took a long time before we achieved that first goal, but in the end we did and that’s all that matters. In anger, André lost by a tire’s length against Cavendish, [and if that wasn’t the case] our Tour could have been very different from then on. It’s true that it wasn’t always easy for Greipel in the sprint stages. He’s at his best when the sprint is well organized and if trains can be formed. At this Tour, the sprint stages were very hectic and it always took a lot of energy to position André as well as possible. Of course, Mark Cavendish was one of the main competitors beforehand. Although I had never thought he would be able to win four stages. The hectic sprints suit him really well, he’s able to position himself on his own.”
Lotto-Soudal entered the 2016 Tour with the intentions of bringing Greipel to stage wins, and everything else be on the back burner. What they didn’t expect though was the strong performance of their rider Thomas De Gendt. De Gendt was very aggressive and active throughout the three weeks. He won the twelfth stage on Mont Ventoux, wore the polka dot jersey for six days, and in the end finished second in the KOM classification. The Belgian received the award for most combative rider twice and also finished second in the most combative for the entire three weeks.
Thomas De Gendt: “I aimed for a stage win but I knew it wouldn’t be easy. There are a lot of riders who want to win a stage in the Tour de France. It’s a bit easier for the time trialists, punchers, sprinters or pure climbers to obtain a victory. For attackers like myself it’s rather difficult because you need to be 99 times in a break before you win a stage. But if you win on a mythical place like Mont Ventoux, it’s absolutely worth it of course. The team gives me the opportunity to join the breakaways but it’s hard to predict whether you’ll be part of it or not. I felt really good during this Tour. That was also the case last year, but then I crashed. This year I had some difficulties in the beginning of the final week but at the end I was still able to show myself a few times.”