A week ago, 34-year-old André Greipel scored the 137th UCI victory of his pro career, which began as a member of the T-Mobile squad 11 years ago. At just over 6 feet tall and weighing around 180 pounds, the German has an almost perfect build for a road sprinter allied to great power that earned him the moniker of The Gorilla. But Greipel manages to lose weight through the grand tours, which has allowed him to be competitive in some hilly stages that proved too tough for many other sprinters.
John Wilcockson / Image: Yuzuru Sunada
Perhaps the most surprising statistic in Greipel’s stats is that he didn’t win a stage of the Tour de France until his sixth year in the peloton. He’d already won stages at the Giro d’Italia (in 2008 and 2010) and the Vuelta a España (2009) when he made his debut at the Tour in 2011—his first season with the Lotto team that he’s staying with for the remainder of his career.
Before that, he was on the same team as Mark Cavendish (first at T-Mobile then HTC-Columbia), and the British rider was always given preference for the Tour. Their rivalry was one element that went into that 2011 Tour and this shot of the finish to stage 10 in the city of Carmaux. By then, Cavendish already had 17 Tour stage wins to his credit, including beating Andre Greipel twice before in that Tour.
The finish of that stage on a sultry day in southern France came after a hilly final hour a long downhill into town with a couple of tights turns in the final kilometer. Cavendish (on left) didn’t have his full lead-out train and began his sprint a long way out, which allowed Greipel to gradually close the gap and just take the photo-finish from Cavendish, with Spain’s José Joaquin Rojas and Norway’s Thor Hushovd on Andre Greipel’s wheel. That first Tour stage win for Greipel was the 60th win of his career.
Now starting his 12th pro season, the Gorilla has amassed 21 grand tour stage wins along with three German national road titles; but the only other one-day victories in his palmarès have been in minor classics, such as Hamburg’s Cyclassics (2009), the Brussels Classic (2013 and ’14) and the Philadelphia International Championship (2009). In fact, Greipel has never placed top 10 in a major classic, while only once has he made the world’s podium, when he finished third in 2011 at Copenhagen behind—yes, you guessed it—Mark Cavendish.