How long has Andre Greipel been waiting just to get his party invite to the Tour de France?
He pedaled in the shadows for years as HTC-Columbia teammate Cavendish racked up the wins and the glory. Instead, Greipel stayed home in July and took his kids to the zoo.
How long has Greipel been waiting to win a stage in the Tour de France and nail down definitive proof that he belongs in the same sentence and fast company as sprinters such as Cavendish, Petacchi and Farrar?
And finally, how long has Greipel been dreaming that one day, with a new team and freedom and a Tour invite, he might possibly beat his bitter rival in the biggest bike race in professional cycling?
That’s a slew of how longs.
Today in hot and humid Carmaux, Greipel threw several monkeys off his back with a convincing and powerful win against Cavendish. If you wanted revenge, you couldn’t have asked for a better day or a more impressive stage.
While Greipel had bickered with Omega Pharma Lotto earlier in the Tour about again playing second fiddle, this time to Philippe Gilbert and his green jersey hunt, this victory was a unified effort.
Gilbert made a bitch slap move on the short but deadly Cote de Mirandol-Bourgnounac and broke clear with the yellow jersey Thomas Voeckler, Tony Gallopin (Cofidis), and Dries Devenyns (Quick Step) and, joining later, Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad).
It was 3.9 kilometers of pain that destroyed the HTC-Highroad train. Renshaw and Bernard Eisel over-cooked, wasted, too burnt to drive. Cavendish found himself in a surprising and vulnerable position coming into the final push to the line. Alone, teammates dropped, forced to freelance.
He did the best he could, latching onto the wheel of Daniele Oss (Liquigas-Cannondale) who led out the sprint. The Member of the British Empire went a little early and — add look of shock and disbelief — a little slow.
Greipel blew by Cavendish and won by half a bike length and he feels really really good about the whole damn thing.
“It’s an incredible feeling to win a stage in the biggest race in the world,” Greipel said shortly after his victory.
“When I knew that I could be part of the race this year, winning a stage became my goal and the team supported me in that. I think I’m the happiest person the world at the moment. I’ve been working for this all season long. Gilbert attacked in last climb and then Marcel Sieberg got me in a good position so that I do my sprint.”
Sprint done, Cavendish killed, monkeys slaughtered, Omega Pharma drinking lots of champagne even if Jurgen Van Den Broeck is still in the hospital. They put a little bubbly in his IV.
Considering all the serious and dispiriting crashes this year, the latest is the crack in the invincibility of Mark Cavendish. His dominance is now open to question. He’s still the best but in just over a week he’s lost to Tyler Farrar and Andre Greipel.
Still, the Manx Missile didn’t get all crabby and make excuses. “I went early but it wasn’t too early on this type of finish, but I didn’t commit enough,” Cavendish said. “I kicked with 170 [meters] to go but Greipel came past and beat me. I’m happy for him. He’s come here to the Tour de France and won. I feel I made a mistake, but Greipel beat me, so there’s no excuse I can say about that.”
The GC is all shook up. The sprint competition is all shook up. Call Elvis, Le King is digging it.