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Henderson talks through Tour victory
Jul 5th, 12. Greg Henderson said he was quite emotional when he crossed the finish line and hugged Andre Greipel after today's stage win.
"It feels like I won, I had the exact same feeling. Like I said, it was a pretty emotional victory," the Kiwi fastman told RoadCycling.co.nz after the team's champagne celebration.
As usual, Henderson's role was the last man in the Lotto Belisol leadout train with the purpose of delivering their sprinter to stage success.
In the first bunch sprint of the Tour, Lotto Belisol controlled the final kilometre but World Champion Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) spoiled the day by passing Greipel in the final metres.
Today, the Lotto Belisol train was simply too fast. The German launched off Henderson's wheel and won by over a half a bike length.
"Again another sprint stage and again there was one train on the front doing the job and this time we came away with the win. A lot of people say the same thing – we deserved that – it was definitely a dominant performance," Henderson said.
He's raced the other Grand Tours and most other top level races around the world, but the Tour de France is a little different from any other race.
"You have to start things a little bit earlier. From 50km onwards the race goes so quick, I can't explain how fast it goes. The last 50km just clicks in, and it's gone.
"Normally I'd try and get us all together at about 15km from the line but today I got on the radio and said 25km out, 'guys we better start getting together here now. I know it's early but we've got a climb coming up'. It was just so fast and everything was happening so quickly."
Hendy talks through the last 1200m
"Over the bridge Marcel Siegberg did a really good job in the headwind. Then Yogi [Jurgen Roelandts] took off.
"Once everyone saw that Lotto had four guys inside the last 1200m, they decided to hang on and wait until Greipel sprinted – we were too fast. If they had tried to come down the outside with a kilometre to go they were going to use all their energy and go backwards in the sprint.
"Once we went over the bridge and then turned left with 800m to go it was just a wall of spectator noise. I couldn't hear a thing! We had it pretty much lined out by then, it was already very fast.
"Yogi took off after the turn and I was on his wheel seated trying to get as small as possible, thinking 'I will carry on once he dies' but he just wasn't slowing down, I thought, 'this is nice!'
"I'm guessing it would have been for sure 70km/h - when you can't lift the speed it normally means you are doing pretty high rpm.
"Later, Greipel said his power was low on the sprint. He only hit 1680 watts, which for him is quite low. So that means we were travelling fast, maybe he got to 72-73kph.
"I saw the 500m sign, which is where I normally go, and Yogi was still going, so I waited a little bit longer. I took off about 450m or 400m. It felt like only ten pedal strokes and I was at the 200m sign and next thing Greipel came past.
"I left enough room for him down the lefthand side, but I was a bit concerned as after he took off he went over a bump and his back wheel jumped, he was going so fast.
"Petacchi [Alessandro - Lampre] looked out on the right, but then obviously he felt the wind and had to jump back straight on the wheel and that's when I knew it was all over.
"I celebrated well before Greipel crossed the line. We were going so fast it was pretty obvious. The German guys have a saying, "You can't go faster than fast."
Post race celebrations
Henderson went straight over to Greipel after the finish. "I got a kiss from the big German," he laughed. "It was a pretty emotional win. He's won 15 races now, but there is something special about this race.
"Quite emotional – wow, what a feeling. You just can't explain how big this race is over here, it is definitely something special."
More to come
Lotto Belisol enjoyed the respect of the peloton today, something they expect to have even more after today's success.
"In the last 10km we could just about move wherever we wanted to," he explained.
In tomorrow's stage - perfect for another sprint victory - Henderson is expecting a big fight for Greipel's wheel, and unfortunately, that's how crashes happen. "That's bike racing unfortunately," he said.
New Zealand's cycling community are hoping for a repeat victory performance tomorrow!
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