Andre Greipel has made it no secret that he believes he is every bit as good a sprinter as his teammate Mark Cavendish. The German had the second most wins in 2009 behind Cavendish, and thus far in 2010 he has notched more victories than his English teammate. With the Tour de France only a week away, Greipel found out today what most, including him, thought would happen: He has been left off the Tour team yet again.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Andre Greipel, like many great sprinters, is outspoken, confident and sometimes abrasive. he believes he can beat anyone . . . including Cavendish, and so he us understandably upset at not being able to contest the sprints at the Tour for another year. Instead he'll sit back and watch the Tour and his HTC team, while Cavendish leads the team in the sprints as he hunts for the green jersey. For Greipel meanwhile, 2010 will likely be the last year that he doesn't ride the Tour.
Bob Stapleton and the HTC management are in a tough spot. They have two great sprinters, each with a unique skill set, each capable of being outright team leaders in the world's most prestigious stage races. But at the Tour, you can't go in with two sprint leaders. You have to choose one or the other, and hope your choice proves wise.
Mark Cavendish is young, already hugely accomplished, and completely unwilling to take a back seat to anyone, whether teammate or rival. With the formation of the new British Sky team, HTC management must be careful not to alienate Cavendish lest he jump ship and go ride for Dave Brailsford and team Sky. In fact, no matter what they do, HTC-Columbia could still end up seeing Cavendish choose to transfer to Sky once his contract is up.
Leaving Greipel off the Tour team for 2010 seals the deal for Greipel's departure from the team. He clearly should not have to wait to lead a Pro Tour team at the world's biggest races, and there are plenty of teams that could use his services, Lotto, Milram and Katyusha to name a few. Greipel's contract is up at the end of this season, and it would be no surprise to see the German announce his new destination for 2011 during the Tour.
If Mark Cavendish goes to the Tour, wins a few stages and takes the green jersey, all will be well in HTC's world. If though the Brit crashes out, or comes up empty in his quest for more stage wins, Bob Stapleton and the rest of the HTC crew will be questioned long into the off season for their decision to leave Greipel at home.
This coming July will also probably be the last month that Greipel enjoys without the astronomical pressure that comes with being an undisputed team leader. 2011 will see the German shoulder the full load in the biggest races, and if results don't come it will be interesting to see how he reacts throughout the year.