The German comfortably best Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) and Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) at the end of the 174.8km stage from Pembrey County Park to Newport, Wales to take the first leader’s jersey of the tour.
The bunch sprint was likely but not guaranteed on the undulating run where Team Sky and Quick-Step Floors with Julian Alaphilippe and Bob Jungels tried but failed to split the race on the 800m Belmont Hill climb with its average nine per cent gradient.
“It was quite tough with that climb at 7km to go," Greipel said. "We knew that we needed the numbers to pull back the breakaway because we expected that they’d go crazy up the climb and they did."
“In the end the team did a really good job to bring back Bob Jungels and with Jasper de Buys I had a really good lead-out there. Gaviria, he came pretty fast from the back and surprised us but I’m happy I could time it right and finish it off. It was what we expected, that it was going to be a bunch sprint, and I’m happy I could win again.”
Don't Look Back in Anger, or Bittersweet Symphony?
The Tour of Britain is somewhat bittersweet for Greipel, who despite protracted contract talks with Lotto Soudal will leave the squad at the end of this year as it prepares to welcome Ewan, 24, in 2019.
The 36-year-old cut a noticeably lean figure at a post-race press conference in Newport where he initially sighed when asked if the stage victory was sentimental given his eight-year history with the outfit he’ll depart for Professional Continental outfit Fortuneo-Samsic.
“It’s a closed book now but I’m super happy with everything, what happened in this team and really thankful for that,” he said.
“Nobody looks back in anger - or something - I just look to the front and I’m really enjoying now. I just say to myself, I’m going to enjoy every race now I’m in this team.
“I also have to keep doing what I’m doing, I still love it. It was tough the last two months, mentally not easy, but it’s a closed book for me now and I’m just enjoying the races.”
Greipel will transfer to Fortuneo-Samsic without any of the lead-out men who've served him so loyally. Among those is Marcel Sieberg, who will join Bahrain Merida in 2019, as well as Australian Adam Hansen, who is yet to outline his future plans.
Greipel has carried the old sprint guard this season, amassing seven victories over familiar foes and fresh faces alike. The 11-time Tour de France stage winner will build a sprint train effectively from scratch at his new stable, which he was able to recall fast facts about.
“First, we have to get together and I have to get to know the riders. I know there is quite good potential on the sprinting side, they know how to do it. I just need to get to know them and the way they are riding,” he said.
“As you could see in the last races, sprinting is not always about the lead-out train. Quick-Step, they make it to perfection in every sprint but if you see the Tour de France, it’s not about lead-out trains, it’s about putting the sprinter in the best position. Sometimes you see just two or three guys moving around. I hope I will have the possibilities to win some races with that team.”
The Tour of Britain continues with Stage 2, an undulating 174.9km trek featuring the category one Challacombe Hill climb inside the last 25km.