It’s not a secret: Andre Greipel has a problem with hesitation.
It came out in a story in last year’s Tour de France, where the big German failed to win any stages after a few years of continual success. The quote from his team was that Greipel sometimes over-thinks things, he’s indecisive, and by the time he makes up his mind, the three steps on the podium are gone.
Greipel hesitates and in sprinting, more than just about any sport, he who hesitates is lost. No win, no champagne, no podium girl kisses. Just a hammer fist of frustration down on the handlebars and a downcast face.
“I went early because I wanted to go for the win and not hesitate,” he said. “I was a bit angry with myself two days ago because I hesitated, but today I wanted to make it better.
It almost worked to perfection. Until the final 100 meters, Greipel and Fernando Gaviria (Quickstep Floors) were side by side. However, with a headwind in their faces, Gaviria kept his speed while the German faded. A fast-closing Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) even managed to slide around him on the right and steal second place.
“For a moment I thought I had him. But, yeah, with 100 meters to go I had one gear left, so I put it in the 11 and somehow he was a bit faster. I don’t know if I was second or third, but it doesn’t matter. I wanted to win.”
It was a good finish for Greipel: long and flat with only the wind to complicate the decision of when to open the sprint. In the end, Greipel perhaps chose not to listen to his own instincts and instead followed the instructions of Lotto-Soudal director sportive Marc Sergeant.
“I told André to go for it, without hesitation,” Sergeant said. “I’m pleased that he did it. If you lose that way that’s sad, but that’s it.”
Greipel can take confidence in his third place compared to the fortunes of some of the other top sprinters. Mark Cavendish was boxed in despite excellent work from his Dimension Data squad. Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin), who dominated the Tour sprints last year, managed only fifth.
Which Greipel will we see on Friday’s sprint stage from Fougères to Chartres? Let’s hope it’s Go-For-It Greipel.