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July 9, 2015 – German cycling is riding the crest of a wave after Andre Greipel won Wednesday’s fifth stage of the Tour de France. A year after Germans won four of the first six stages before ending with seven in total, Greipel’s second stage this year made it three in five days.
AFP/Main Image: James Startt
And it has made the decision by German broadcaster ARD to air the Tour for the first time in four years pay off. ARD had boycotted the race in protest at the number of doping scandals and the poor reputation of the sport in cleaning up and combatting the cheats. But with Germans taking 21 stage wins since 2011, including three more thisyear, German cycling is booming again.
“I’m really happy for the media attention we are getting now from the first TV program in Germany (in four years). I think it’s also a big honor after four or five successful years of German riders,” said Greipel, who also won
Sunday’s second stage. “The last years it’s also something we can be proud of because with our victories we could get the attention of the Tour de France back to Germany.”
As well as Greipel, Tony Martin won Tuesday’s stage and also took the Tour yellow jersey for the first time in his career. It means the absence of Marcel Kittel, a winner of eight stages over the previous two years who wore yellow during both editions after winning the opening stage, has not been felt.
“It’s a big honor that German television is coming back first of all because we showed that we make some good sport, successful sport,” said Martin, 30, a three-time world time trial champion. “So the pressure was really high to show now what we are able to do, to repeat what we did in the (recent) past and I’m really happy we could do it so early in the Tour. Five stages, three wins and the yellow jersey, you can’t expect a better start from German cycling.”
Image: Yuzuru Sunada
Martin has five stage wins since 2011, but Germany as a whole have won 21 stages since then with the other 16 coming from sprinters Greipel and Kittel.
“I think it’s mother nature (either) you have the fast twitching muscles or you don’t have them,” said Greipel, 32 “I think my parents did a good job as I have some fast twitching muscles!”
Despite that sprint success, Greipel had never even worn the sprinters’ green jersey until this year and Kittel had only held it fleetingly. Peter Sagan has won the last three green jerseys and Lotto-Soudal’s Greipel believes it will be tough to beat the Slovakian, despite holding the jersey since Sunday.
“The focus is to go for stage wins. We (Lotto) won already two, now I’m still ahead even if it’s not such a big difference between Sagan and me,” said Greipel on Wednesday. “I’m pretty certain Sagan will get on hilly days more points than me. (Thursday) there are 50 points on the line (in an uphill finish), it will be a tough sprint for me but every day I’m enjoying keeping the green jersey. I have the green jersey so I will not just give it away like that.”
Image: Yuzuru Sunada
Likewise Martin knows he cannot keep the yellow jersey all the way to Paris but he’s enjoying his moment in the spotlight. “GC (general classification) doesn’t play for me a big role, I want to keep the yellow jersey now as long as possible but I’m also realistic that when the big mountains come, I won’t be able to stay with the best riders,” he admitted.