André Greipel: WorldTour relegation system ‘totally bulls**t’

André Greipel must be relieved not to be on the books of Israel-Premier Tech, his last team of his long professional career, this year. The same goes for Lotto-Soudal, the team where he spent eight seasons. It’s not because he’s fed up with cycling – he still loves it so much – or because he’s out of form, but because of the pressures on this pair of teams in 2022.

Both are embroiled in a relegation slump as WorldTour licenses are up for renewal and face the prospect of dropping down to ProTeam level where places in the top races are not guaranteed. As this article was published, Israel and Lotto remain in the red zone, chasing UCI points to try to secure their future in the WorldTour.

“I think this whole point system is totally bulls**t because you have teams that have been cycling for 20, 30 years, investing in cycling,” said the German. weekly cycling.

“It’s just unfair to put them in a situation like this. Lotto also organizes a lot of events in Belgium. It’s just not nice to see a team like this fighting for something like this .”

With 158 career victories in 1,319 racing days – one victory every eight races – one imagines that none of his former teams (including Arkéa-Samsic, one of the teams seeking promotion) would be in difficulty if she still had a full put “Gorilla” on their books.

He adds: “When you’re still trying to get the points now, you’ve done something wrong, because it’s been three years and the mistake has already happened.”

Unlike other former top professionals, notably Bernard Hinault, Greipel didn’t shy away from cycling in his retirement years. In fact, he seems to relish the activity; he talks to weekly cycling at the first Global Bike Festival, where he seemed to enjoy cycling as much as anyone.

At one point he passed this author on an 8% climb using one leg and seemed pleased with the attention of fans who were allowed to meet their legend up close.

“I really like it,” he says. “Performance sport is behind me, so now I’m just doing what I really love. I’ve never had the opportunity to enjoy events like this, so I just enjoy being a part of it.

“Actually, I have to calm down, because I just like cycling,” he explains. “It’s a way of life for me. When I ride now, a bit too much. I’m already starting to feel that my condition is getting too good. So I really have to pace myself.

While still close to where he was in his final year as a professional, Greipel doesn’t seem to miss the high-level sport he did so well at.

“When you’ve already moved away from sport a bit, it’s easier because I wake up in my bed every weekend,” he explains. “I’m just proud of what I’ve achieved. Now I’m continuing, I’m living the cycling lifestyle. Being at events like this also shows me how beautiful the sport is.

“I try to do half as much as a normal week of cycling that I have done in my professional life,” he says. “Just to keep my heart in shape. It’s important because I don’t want to suffer from heart problems at the end of my life.”

André Greipel wins the fourth stage of the Ruta del Sol 2021

André Greipel won the last race of his career last year

(Image credit: Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

Greipel may not be tired of cycling, nor is he bored of professional cycling, but of not participating. He is one of us now.

“I watch cycling now as a fan,” he explains. “I already have the distance. Last year I was still in the mix in the sprints, but that’s fine with me. It was my decision to quit because I still had a contract this year. , but I was very good to quit last year.”

He will go to the Tour de France, the first time since 2010 that he will not run it. This time he will be there as a fan. Not even a VIP in the village at the start or finish; no free champagne for the winner 158 times.

Instead, he will take the ferry to Copenhagen from northern Germany for the Great departure with his family, where he will watch from the side of the road. As he puts it succinctly: “I’ll go to Copenhagen because it’s a beautiful city, and we’ll watch the race from the fence.”

Cycling has come a long way since the HTC Highroad days of the late 2000s, when Greipel first took victory after victory. At the Giro d’Italia Mathieu van der Poel succeeded seemingly on all terrains, while in last year’s Tour Wout van Aert won on Mont Ventoux and in a time trial before beating the best on the Champs-Élysées.

“The races are getting harder and harder, always hilly days too,” he says. “Somehow you have to be a good climber to get over the hills. I think the climbs get faster and faster and the run gets faster and faster. It’s just hard sometimes to get the sprinters there. It’s tough for people in my weight group.”

The favorites for the green jersey are no longer pure fast men, like him or Mark Cavendish, but all-rounders like Van Aert. This is reinforced by a Tour that doesn’t have many flat days for the bunch sprints.

“From what I’ve seen, there aren’t so many opportunities, especially when you see the start of the Tour,” says Greipel. “Okay, it’s flat, but you have a lot of small roads, and wind. Then the Roubaix stage. It’s going to be super interesting, but there aren’t as many opportunities as before. “

Not that it matters to Greipel, he will be on the side of the road with thousands of others, cheering them on. He is happily retired.

André Greipel was talking to weekly cycling at the first Global Bike Festival in Saalbach, Austria, where he hosted a number of group rides and spoke about his career to hundreds of cycling fans. The festival was created by Play Sports Network to bring road, gravel and mountain bike riders together for four days of talks, skills sessions, rides and interactive events with iconic riders and brands. Ticket sales for 2023 will be announced in due course.

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