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Key to Winning Sprints: Experience

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July 19, 2015 – Andre Greipel said experience was the key for him as he claimed a hat-trick of Tour de France stage wins on Sunday. The 33-year-old German won the 183km 15th stage from Mende to Valence after also claiming victory in the second and fifth stages. The Lotto-Soudal leader held off the charges of John Degenkolb, Alexander Kristoff and Peter Sagan to earn the stage win, his ninth in total at the Tour.

AFP/Yuzuru Sunada

While Greipel had nestled in behind Kristoff to launch his sprint, everyone else seemed to be fighting for his wheel. “As you get older you get more experienced. Of course it helps me that they are looking for my wheel and fighting for my wheel,” said Greipel, who is fondly known as the ‘Gorilla from Rostock’.

“But you just have to make the right decisions in the right moments, and again I made the right decision. “The team put me in the right spot and I picked a good wheel to follow in Alexander Kristoff. In the end it’s all about your legs and I think Mother Nature gave me this. But I’m working hard on it to get more explosive.”

Despite three stitches in his left knee from a crash on Saturday, the burly German was once again too strong for his rivals. Before the 15th stage began, Briton Mark Cavendish, winner of the seventh stage in a sprint finish, had spoken of his desire to have a bunch finale. And while he got his wish, the 30-year-old had been dropped within the first 10km on a tough uphill start to the race.

2015 tour de france andre greipel lotto soudal ridley victory success win

He was one of 23 riders to lose touch early on and they never managed to regain contact. So when it came to the sprint finish, after a nine-man breakaway group was reeled in with 30km to go, Greipel did not have his main challenger to contend with. “It was all about suffering from 10km in to the end,” said Greipel.

“The team supported me to make it possible, they kept me in a good position for the sprint. “I also had power in my legs, I had quite good confidence for the sprint and just went for it — I’m really happy I finished it off.”

The German never looked troubled as he launched his sprint around 250 metres from the end. Compatriot Degenkolb was perfectly placed on his rear wheel with Kristoff behind that, but when they both darted out from behind the Lotto-Soudal rider’s slipstream, neither had the strength to overhaul Greipel. Sagan, as ever, finished like a bullet but had started his sprint from too far back and trailed in fourth, although he kept hold of the sprinters’ green points jersey.

19 July 2015 102nd Tour de France Stage 15 : Mende - Valence SAGAN Peter (SVK) Tinkoff - Saxo, Maillot Vert Photo : Yuzuru SUNADA

Sagan had been part of an earlier nine-man breakaway that got clear around 35km into a stage that started at breakneck speed. But seven of those, including Sagan, were caught with 40km left, while Matteo Trentin and Ryder Hesjedal soldiered on for another 10km, but for there after, the sprinters’ teams controlled the run-in.

For the overall contenders, it was a day of following along in the peloton but race leader Chris Froome — who maintained his 3min 09sec gap to Nairo Quintana and 3min 32sec advantage over Tejay Van Garderen — said it was anything but simple.

“What looked like a relatively straight forward stage on paper ended up flat-out from the beginning to the end,” he said. However, the 30-year-old Briton revealed there were no such problems like the previous day’s stage when he was showered with a cup of urine by a spectator.

“It was a relatively quiet day in the peloton and there certainly wasn’t an incident like yesterday. “The support on the roads today was actually fantastic; that’s what makes the Tour de France, the fans really are the heart and soul of the race. “It was fantastic to see their reaction today.”