Greipel will start with new team Arkea-Samsic, which he joined over the off-season after Australian race debutant Caleb Ewan effectively replaced the veteran powerhouse at Lotto Soudal – the team Greipel rose to Tour prominence with.
“It could be my last. With the status of the team, you never know if we are selected next year, so I’m going to try and enjoy it and take it like it is my last,” he said.
Speaking at Thursday’s teams’ presentation in Belgium, Brussels, the 36-year-old didn’t instil total faith in his comparatively inexperienced, wildcard Professional Continental outfit ahead of Stage 1 that will see the fast-men take the floor.
Greipel in the past has profited from a drilled sprint train of handy and supportive lieutenants but intimated he may have to be more dexterous this month.
“I wouldn’t call it a lead-out train. I would call it riders who are helping me for the sprint, for a good position, because it’s not easy to compete against the sprint teams. I have to find my way a little bit alone. We’ll see how this will turn out,” he said.
Arkea-Samsic scored a wildcard invitation to this year’s race that the recruitment of the drawcard Greipel surely would have helped with. Freshly crowned French national champion and climber Warren Barguil also headlines the squad that will take to the Grand Depart in Brussels.
Greipel is virtually the only sprinter of the old guard in this year’s race, with 30-time stage winner Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) not selected to compete on the back of two more or less scoreless seasons.
As part of our preview of Tour de France 2019, we chat to Jason Bakker, Caleb Ewan's Manager to understand where the Australian rider is at on the eve of his first Tour de France - Christophe Mallet and David McKenzie also take a good look at the race route.
“There is always a reason why somebody is not in the Tour de France. For sure he is one of the riders who was always there in the sprints, who got a lot of stage victories here, so there is somebody missing. I hope for him that he can come back next year,” Greipel said of his old sparring partner.
Ewan, frontrunner Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) and Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) spearhead the charge now, with Fernando Gaviria (UAE Emirates) sidelined through injury.
Greipel earlier this season commented the fresh faces were a different breed of sprinter – lighter and more apt at climbing than he and his traditional peers.
He finished his career with Lotto Soudal on a high note in 2018, winning two stages and marking a stint in the leader’s jersey at the Tour of Britain. Greipel has not yet found his stride at Arkea-Samsic and will enter the Tour on the back of the Criterium du Dauphine, which abandoned last month due to a stomach virus.
“I had a lot of health issue the last two months, so I just try to enjoy the Tour. I’m happy to be here. How it turns out, we’re going to find out,” he said.
“The health issues are OK. I was training anyway the whole time so I’m hoping for some good luck and good legs. If I look at them, I think they are alive.”