Tour de France: Who will win the Green Jersey?

Froome and Contador might be this summer’s duel but hopefully their rivalry is a slow story that develops over three weeks. The more immediate clash will see the sprinters in action from Stage 1 onwards. Here’s a look at the sprinters, the points competition and the likely green jersey wearers.

The sprint jersey? Technically it’s the points competition but the contest is so weighted towards the sprinters that green jersey wearer is most likely to be a sprinter. The full rules are set out further below if you need to know the maths but for now let’s run through the sprinters and others.

Peter Sagan is the prime pick. He’s ridden the Tour de France twice and won the green jersey each time. He’s in form as we saw in the Tour de Suisse and this year’s route suits him thanks to several punchy stages. He’s unlikely to win a straight sprint finish but he’ll place and collect points. It might sound strange but the high level of sprinting between Marcel Kittel, Mark Cavendish, André Greipel and others will only suit him more. In the past Cavendish would win stage after stage but this time we might see a fiercer battle for the stage wins and consequently no single pure sprinter establishes a big points lead.

The Slovak’s obvious advantage is his ability to scale climbs that defeat the other sprinters. He did this last year and returns with a team dedicated to this goal, as we saw on the road to Albi last Cannondale cranked up the pace on the early climbs to leave Sagan unchallenged for the sprint finish. What can stop him? Let’s not carried away because those hillier stages have fewer points on offer. So on the days Sagan can win, his advantage is reduced. Still he’s got a substantial advantage. Beyond a crash or illness he can be his own worst enemy, “sinning by pride” as the French say with a tendency to be too bold.

Next comes Michael Matthews. Perhaps not the second pick for the green jersey but his presence in the race could change plenty for Sagan. The Slovak scenario of stashing points is going to be altered by the presence of Matthews because everything Sagan can do, Matthews can too. With Orica-Greenedge he’s got a useful team in his service where we might see Matthew Goss co-opted to lead out duties in a bid to support Matthews’ green ambitions although Goss and the team might still fancy a go for the stage wins to start with.

If the green jersey is really the preserve of the sprinters then who is the fastest sprinter? That’s what we’ll have to wait and see in the Tour as Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel race for the title in a field packed with talent. In fact “fastest” is an open term, having the highest top speed is one thing but it’s another to sustain power over the final 100, 200 or even 300 metres.

Mark Cavendish’s win rate is built on an acute tactical awareness and superb aerodynamics. He doesn’t have the most power but his ultra low position on the bike ensure no watts go to waste, especially given his “locked” track position: in slow motion he sprints like a swan with the legs paddling furiously while the upper body remains graceful; contrast with John Degenkolb. He’s got tactical variety, the ability to go early or late knowing an early dash means he’s so aero it’s hard to come past. In addition his OPQS team is there in his service with a dedicated lead out train and the Tour has been the big objective all year with the aim of winning the yellow jersey on the opening day. Last year he was on antibiotics at the start and I gather well into the Tour discovered he was riding with one crank longer than the other. The crank length can be fixed… but he’s fallen ill and is skipping the British championships this weekend. A precaution perhaps.

Is Marcel Kittel a challenger or the king of the sprints? Cavendish might win on reputation but last year Kittel won on stage wins. The opening win in Corsica was thanks to the late confusion sowed by the Greenedge bus but subsequent victories left no doubt. This year Cavendish got the better of Kittel in Tirreno-Adriatico but that’s been the only real sprint clash; the only other time they’ve raced together was the Dubai Tour but they never ended up in a sprint finish together. But did you watch the Giro? Kittel’s finishing power in Dublin was something to behold. Cavendish might have the high top end but Kittel has the raw power to wind up the speed, if the sprint slows – perhaps a tight corner – then the German can put his torque to the test.

Kittel is a tandem with John Degenkolb, a rare scenario. We’ve yet to see how this works in practice, will they divide up the stages, try a two-pronged sprint or what? Degenkolb has been having a fine season, the points jersey in Paris-Nice, Gent-Wevelgem and pushing Mark Cavendish close in the Tour of California.
André Greipel is often sprinting’s third man but he’s beaten Mark Cavendish in the Tour de France, got the better of Marcel Kittel and can cope with a late hill or two despite his “Gorilla” bulk. The Lotto-Belisol rider leads the victory rankings with 11 wins this year. Perhaps he’s got less star factor but he’s not slower and he too has a dedicated sprint train from Lotto-Belisol.

Next up we have series of names where it’s hard to imagine they challenge for the green jersey with consistent stage wins but we should see them in the mix for the sprint win.

FDJ’s Arnaud Démare has looked like a big fish in a small pond at times this year, winning sprints by such a margin that you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d embarked on a breakaway. But he has scalped the big names too, he won the 245km Vattenfall Classic last year by beating Greipel and won the “Ride London-Surrey Classic” last year with its finish in front of Buckingham Palace.

Katusha’s Alexander Kristoff was a star of the spring classics thanks to his sprinting. Often a convincing winner he’s still not a regular sprint force and his wins have tended to surprise, he seems to be fastest rider left after a 250km classic in rough weather rather than a sprinter. Lampre-Merida’s Sacha Modolo is having a good season but up against Cavendish, Kittel and Greipel? Probably not but it only takes one open window to pounce. He won a stage in the Tour de Suisse, outfoxing Peter Sagan.

Europcar’s Bryan Coquard has the speed from track racing and has been winning plenty in France this year. But “the Mosquito” has struggled at the highest level to be in the right place as the race thunders towards the finish. If sprinting was 1km match event he’d be a strong pick but it’s not and the Europcar train is a regional stopping service compared to the OPQS and Giant-Shimano expresses.

Movistar’s team isn’t know yet and given they want to ride in the service of Alejandro Valverde will they pick a sprinter? If so there’s José Joaquín Rojas, a regular contender but rare winner while Juan José Lobato is the faster pick and he almost pipped Cavendish in the Tour de Suisse. Trek Factory Racing have Danny Van Poppel, fast and brave but just the one sprint victory this year in the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen.

And that’s about it…. scanning provisional startlists it’s notable just how many teams are not bringing a team sprinter. Presumably they know only too well they’d get beaten by some of the names above. We still don’t know if Elia Viviani and Tyler Farrar are riding, both could come close to a stage win but Viviani’s surely a clash with Sagan but neither are likely green jersey contenders. Meanwhile IAM’s Heinrich Haussler is more likely to try a breakaway and poach a win from there.

The Rules
The points jersey rewards the sprinters. Points are awarded at the finish line and at one intermediate point in the stage and the rider with the most points wears the jersey.

  • For the “flat” stages (aka coefficient 1) 45,35,30,26,22,20,18,16,14,12,10,8,6,4,2 points for the first 15 riders
  • For the “hilly” stages (coefficient 2 and 3) 30,25,22,19,17,15,13,11,9, 7,6,5,4,3,2 points for the first 15 riders
  • For the “high mountain” (coefficient 4 and 5): 20,17,15,13,11,10,9,8,7, 6,5,4,3,2,1 points for the first 15 riders
  • For the individual time trial stages : 20,17,15,13,11,10,9,8,7,6, 5,4,3,2,1 for the first 15 riders
  • For each intermediate sprint, the first 15 riders to finish will receive 20,17,15,13,11,10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 points respectively
  • In the event of a rider finishing outside the time limit but being let back in the race they will find their points tally deducted by the amount of points awarded to the stage winner on the day.

Intermediate Sprints
There’s only one per stage. With its hoardings, gantry, crowds and fixed TV camera the intermediate sprint in the Tour can look more impressive than the finish of lesser races. We will see riders sprinting if points are available but often a break will go and mop up the points.

Can a climber win?
Some call the green jersey “the sprinter’s jersey” but strictly-speaking it’s the points jersey. You might remember Chris Froome lost the yellow jersey in the Critérium du Dauphiné but won the green jersey. Can it happen in the Tour de France? No. The points are heavily tilted to the sprint stages and the likes of Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde would have to win every mountain stage going just be in contention. Last year the same points scale applied and Peter Sagan amassed 409 points to 110 for Michał Kwiatkowski, the highest placed GC rider in the points competition. The green jersey in the Tour is unlike the red points competition in the Giro or the Vuelta’s green jersey where a GC contender or a climber can be in contention during the final week.

Yellow > Green
If the climbers are unlikely to wear green, the sprinters can wear yellow. The winner of Stage 1 in Harrogate will wear the yellow jersey. There are no time bonuses so if there’s a sprint the next day and so on without a time gap then the jersey wearer is decided by adding up the total of finishing positions and the rider with the lowest tally wears the jersey. For example if a rider finishes 1st, 4th and 3rd after the first three stages their tally would be 1+4+3=8.

Peter Sagan
Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, André Greipel
Michael Matthews

The points competition rewards regular, high placed finishes but with its bias to the flatter stages it’s reserved for the sprinters. In the past Mark Cavendish has been so far ahead of the rivals in terms of speed he’s been able to rack up a substantial points lead. But now the crown of best sprinter is a more open contest and we should see several sprinters sharing the points. Peter Sagan’s ability to win points in the stages where other sprinters cannot puts him as the prime pick of the maillot vert but this time his superpower skills will be challenged by Michael Matthews.

It’s a fierce competition and worth celebrating because the top sprinters rarely compete together outside the Tour de France with each on different race programs, calendars and objective. Predicting the stage winner and green jersey is merely an exercise in fun. The certainty is the clash between Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, André Greipel, Peter Sagan, Arnaud Démare and the rest.

Next week a look at the riders in the mix for white jersey and then overall contenders.

53 thoughts on “Tour de France: Who will win the Green Jersey?”

  1. You could’ve saved yourself a lot of work with this article and just typed “Peter Sagan”. I can’t see anyone challenging him for the jersey.

    One typo – I think Cav’s aim is the Green not Yellow jersey. (Unless I misunderstood the context, and you mean getting yellow after the first stage).

    • A yellow jersey is one of the few prizes Cav doesn’t have…so he wants it quite badly. However, looking at the detailed profile – how accurate is it? I don’t know – but it looks like the finish in Harrogate is slightly uphill. And something tells me that Cav is anything by the favourite. Anyone with insight, local knowledge, other ideas?

      • i live in Harrogate and can tell you that the finish is anything but flat! The last 300 metres or so are uphill – but should not trouble them too much

      • Well Cav (or his Mum) certainly has the local knowledge. He actually handles uphill sprints quite well if he is setbup corre tly.

      • sorry to promote another site but the youtube GCN boys have done a nice ride preview of stages 1/2. you can look it up. stage 2 is gonna be anything but a field sprint from the looks of it. it looks more for the Leige/bastogne/leige types and sagan.

    • The Manxman’s mum lives in the town where the Stage 1 sprint finishes. Incentive! I do believe he will be donning Yellow after Stage 1. Under pressure with a hometown crowd, slam dunk, barring any crashes or what have you, IMHO. Hard to believe that this would be the first time he would wear Yellow (came close last year) in the Tour.

  2. As ever – Inrng, thanks for the marvellous posts, much appreciated.

    I’d like to ask the assembled thoughtful cycling fans a question – do people agree with the points assignment? Two issues: (i) is the favouring of sprinters over GC contenders due to the stage coefficients a good thing (personally I’m in favour, to enhance the yellow/green distinction), (ii) should there be a bigger points split between 1st place and the rest, to increase the weight on stage wins and dis-favour steady, consistent placings (I’m unsure what I think about this – part of me thinks the green jersey should go to the fastest, most clinical pure sprinter; but then I also see the merit in rewarding the most consistent finisher).

    • Referencing Cilmeri – issue (ii) could be summarised as ‘who deserves the green jersey: Sagan/Matthews or Cavendish/Kittel/Greilpel?’

    • I prefer an equally weighted points competition. I do like the idea of rewarding the most consistent finisher. Would also like to 2 – 3 sprints so points contenders can get into a break and mop them up. ala Thors two Green jersey wins. Even with a weighted competition, he was able to consistently place and take points on the road.

      I do appreciate a rider who “earns” the jersey through tactical and aggressive riding.

    • Personally, green is a sprinters jersey in the same way that spots are for climbers. Nobody would suggest diminishing the differential in mountain stages to level the playing field with riders who are faster on the stages that are merely bumpy, so why not favour the pure sprint stages for green? I think the most important thing for the green jersey is that the competition is close – at the moment there’s clearly two ways to win it – consistency or sprint stage wins. They leant on the balance because it was ludicrous that Cavendish could win so many stages and not win the jersey, they may have to lean on it in other directions as the sport and field change over time. I think it would be terrible if a rider like Sagan – as good as he is – walked away with it every year, as there would be no suspense or intrigue in the competition, and ultimately that’s the point of offering a different prize.

  3. ■”In the event of a rider finishing outside the time limit but being let back in the race they will find their points tally deducted by the amount of points awarded to the stage winner on the day.”

    What the hell is this utter nonsense rule?

    -Not only is it the over 9000th case of organizers/governing body bending its own rules (time limit);

    -It also means that the rider, who would have been taken out of the points competition completely, through disqualification, if it weren’t for organizer’s ‘kind-heartedness’ (read: organizers who don’t want to punish a star rider because it would hurt their interest), is now still able to compete in said competition;

    -And to top it all off, the rider doesn’t even get any serious punishment, because these time limits will most likely only affect high mountain stages, in which case the points lost are a mere 20, allowing the rider to stay in full contention for the jersey!

    It’s like having a traffic rule saying “If you go 150 KM/H in an urban 50 KM/H zone you lose your drivers license, except if we feel like it, then you only get a fine of 10 Euros”….

    The “Except if we feel like it” part I have gotten used to over this season… but the fact that that organisers acknowledge beforehand that they will break their own rules, then come up with a ridiculously lousy sanction, and then proceed to codify said lousy sanction in said non-enforced ruleset brings the stupidity to a whole new level.

    • I believe this only applies when a certain proportion of riders all come in over the time limit, so it’s not a “when we feel like it” scenario. Happened to Cav a few years ago when the grupetto all came in over the time limit if I remember correctly.

      • Correct, it’s an extreme measure but the idea is that “if we let you back in you have to pay a small price” and its an incentive to the green jersey wearer not to sit too far back even on the mountain stages. It’s still a confusing and subjective measure and hopefully it’s not used once.

  4. A small correction to the last sentence in the 5th paragraph – you have written “bid to support Matthew’s green”. I think that the Matthew your are talking about is Michael Matthews, not Matthew Goss, so it should be written Matthews’ or Matthews’s (I prefer s’ but either is OK), thus referring to Michael Matthews, but not Matthew’s, which is actual referring to Matthew Goss’s green jersey.

      • Some readers seems to read the blog as a grammatical exercise rather than for the content.

        Unless a typo really affects the readability or understanding of the post, why be nit-picky and post something that wastes more time for readers than the slight typo in the first place?

        • I commented because when I originally read it, I had to re-read that bit a few times to make sure that I understood what was being said.

          I’ve read this blog for many years, and as far as I can remember, this is the first time I have commented on grammar.

          While Inrng’s identity is unknown, it has been suggested that the author is not a native English speaker, and rather than just state that what was written was wrong, I thought it would be helpful and polite to explain why.

          I apologise if anyone was offended by my earlier post – to help you get over it, perhaps you should go ride your bike.

          • Sorry, didn’t mean to jump at you. Just find it a bit funny when every blog post a large share of the first comments are about typos rather than the topic, as if blogs had to be collectively reviewed. Probably done with good intentions though, spirit of the commenting is usually great here.

  5. Without knowing which teams are riding under which TUEs, it is tough to pick a favorite.

    Could the UCI publish this information at the team level and not violate any individual’s privacy rights?

  6. getting some decent play there in that photo. Sojasun (the company actually helping pay Sagan’s wages) getting screwed. PMU looking forward to two solid weeks basking in Sagan’s reflected glory at the Tour. Sojasun to get screwed again. Hope they knew that going into the deal – which of course they did – and negotiated the price downwards accordingly. So really its the team getting screwed. Hmm…

    • Sojasun invite a lot of clients and suppliers to the Tour so two minutes and a photo with Peter Sagan in green is great value for them. It annoys the riders from the former team though, some of whom have had to take the old team owner Heulot to court for unpaid wages. Not Sojasun’s fault though, the quit in a regular fashsion while Heulot had signed riders without the funding in place.

      • Oh hey, a team/rider helping entertain a sponsor’s client at a race weekend is a given; they’re definitely going home with that. Write that into riders’ contracts a la Formula 1 when you sign them. My point is the sponsor’s ad space on ANY jersey a rider wears should be sacrosanct and should not alter irrespective of a national championship win, world championship win or individual competition lead. It represents the team’s only dependable revenue stream after all.

        All teams at all levels would benefit from taking ownership of their jersey ad space. En masse they should break race promoters one by one, and the UCI, on this issue. If no one blinks even ASO would have to cave, but they would have to do it collectively. If only one team took the initiative then ASO could punish them. ASO control which direction the television cameras point. They control the telecast. They control the wildcards.

        60,000 euro start money and a share of 5M euro purse is a pittance compared to the value the teams could be generating in a free market. I don’t really want to hear any more woe is me tales from the teams until they have at least organized themselves on this issue. When I see Chris Froome time trialing at the Tour in some saggy, ill-fitting, low-tech Le Coq skinsuit instead of his bespoke Rapha suit it becomes obvious how antiquated this sport is. A rider is actually costing himself time against the clock competing in unfamiliar equipment. Good luck easing that one past Roger or Tiger, but that’s how tight under the thumb ASO must have these boys.

  7. As a bonafied Cav fanboy, I could only hope Cav grabs green this time.

    He has only become more consistent over time and his sprinting is way more intricate and doesn’t always need the drilled train of HTC or OPQS to get him to the line first.

    Also, it’s only one example and not a stage race, but he finished damn well at MSR this year.

  8. Great post! I’m excited to see another Sagan-like rider like Matthews to hopefully bring some suspense to the green jersey competition. I also think Sagan could use the challenge to keep pushing himself.

    • It would be good to see some competition for Sagan but Matthews has to share the billing with Gerrans and Impy at least, if not others. Cav and Kittel will go for stage wins only I think and not waste time on the intermediate sprints, which you have to do if you want to win green. Sagan has got it tied up unless Kwia decides to go for green rather than white. He just won his national ITT so must be over his period of tiredness.

      • Yes surely Matthews doesn’t have the team commitment that Sagan has, but think he can still place well on stages Gerrans target and hopefully not lose to much ground on Sagan there. I also think Matthews will benefit from help of Impey rather than being obstructed by his goals, but it remains to be seen.

  9. Degenkolb and Kittel raced together at the Tour last year. Degs said that he knew Kittel was faster in a flat sprint and worked as a leadout man, but he was the man for the hillier stages and Plan B if Kittel wasn’t there at the end.

  10. I think you’re underrating Kristoff. He has said he will target it this year, and whist I think Sagan has the edge, Kristoff could well affect the result.

    • I’m curious about what Kristoff can do as well, but he’s at least one notch below Sagan and Kittel in their respective domains. But surely he can be a factor in the competition, hope he gets a stage win at least.

  11. I wonder if the day of the true sprinter is coming to an end. There seem to be many riders these days that can climb and time trial reasonably well in addition to being sprinters.There will always be fast guys, but I believe they will be more like Sagan than Cavendish. Interested in your take.
    by the way..really enjoy your blog..thanks.

    • If more and more sprinters are similar to Sagan rather than Cavendish it just opens up for more victories for the more Cavendish types, so unless race profiles change the same I don’t see why there wouldn’t be some targeting a career as pure sprinters.

    • And somewhere somebody probably said there will never be another Maertens, or Cippo, or….

      It’s easy to forget just how special Cavendish has been, and Sagan will never win as many stages as Cavendish already has. For that reason, and that reason alone, there will always be a place for the true fast men of cycling.

      Incidentally, Cavendish, Kittel and Greipel. How lucky are we?

  12. It’s going to be interesting. I think green will go to Giant-Shimano. I also hope time cuts are strictly enforced, because it’s one tool that the best climbing fast guys should aim to use (to send their rivals out of time). And that this is the last year when not all stages count the same.

  13. “I gather well into the Tour discovered he was riding with one crank longer than the other.” 😮 What …. can Inring now reveal if the mechanic is still on the team! 🙂

  14. Great post as always. Just a remark, Demaré did not win Vatenfall Classic (with the Wasseberg Muur) last year, but John Degenkolb.
    Pretty exciting this year’s TdF

  15. No Kristoff?? Kristoff has made the green jersey a goal this year, and I could see him winning points over Kittel/Greipel at the more difficult stages. He will also ride top-5/10 on the flat stages probably. In my opinion a more serious contender to the green jersey than Michael Matthews (who has said his goal will be a stage win, not the green jersey).

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