Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The quiet Gorilla........

The 2011 Worlds have been run and won and the Brits have their first World Champion for 46 years. Mark Cavendish is certainly a worthy winner of the rainbow jersey, especially on a sprinters course, but what about the also rans?

Gossy is the future of Australian sprinting. He is of a different mould to past greats like McEwen. His victory in the Milan-SanRemo was a battle of attrition and strength. He managed to outlast some of the best in the world finishing ahead of Cancellara and Gilbert. His future is bright and after signing with GreenEDGE I look forward to seeing an Aussie team on the podium in their first season with Gossy’s hands held aloft.

Third place was taken by personal favourite of mine; Andre Greipel. The Gorilla most successful year to date was in 2009 where he had 20 victories, second only to the Manxman. This was an illustration of the dominance of the HTC team at the time with 41 stages wins by their two sprinters.

Coming off the back of the Tour Down Under victory in 2008 Andre was the favourite to take it out again in 2009. Despite being the favourite, Andre was once again bumped into shadows. The second coming of Lance 2.0 had arrived in Adelaide becoming the sole focus of any media.

Andre was like Katherine Heigl in 27 Dresses, always the bridesmaid, never in the spotlight. It‘s this exact reason that made him so appealing to follow.

His conversation is quiet, softly spoken and delivered with German precision. Friends and I had the opportunity to meet him in the middle of the crowds of the Unley Festival the night before the Unley stage. He was minding his own business but happy to give up his time to chat to us. Sure I was with some attractive women who made it easier for him to remember us, but the next morning he spotted us in the crowd at the start of the stage and made his way over to say hello and pose for a pic or two.

We wished him well, but unfortunately he crashed with a Police motorbike taking down a few other cyclists that day resulting in a dislocated shoulder forcing him out for 12 weeks. Despite this set back in January he went on to achieve the 20 stage victories for the year; including four at the Vuelta a Espana in which Cav did not ride.

With Cav usually the first choice sprinter for any Grand Tour, Andre never got his chance to unleash his power down the Champs Elysee. Every cyclist’s dreams of being part of the Tour De France and Andre was no exception. A switch from the powerful HTC team to the Omega Pharma-Lotto in 2011 would finally give him his chance.

Much of the talk early in the 2011 season was centred on the much anticipated clash between the Gorilla and the Manx Missile with the first outing being the 2011 Tour Down Under. Unfortunately the first hit out fizzled with Cav riding for the team rather than himself before crashing.

The two would meet again, finally in the Tour De France. Once again Andre was second fiddle to an on fire Gilbert who was lighting up the early stages of the tour. Slowly Gilbert moved down the GC and the Gorilla was let out of his cage. Stage ten of the race was a highlight for me as I watched (& screamed) as the apprentice outsprinted the master and Greipel took the tape winning his first Tour De France stage.

With a third place at the worlds to add to his already impressive list of achievements, the gentle giant has a growing fan base. People are starting to take notice and I personally look forward to watching the progress of this adopted Aussie over the next few years.

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