Who Will Win The Green Jersey?

They’ve changed the rules but can they change the ruler? Peter Sagan won the points competition by such a large margin last year that he’s an obvious pick to win again.

Here’s a look at the contenders and pretenders for the points competition and a wider look at the sprinters and their teams too.

Points competition: riders win points by placing at the finish of a stage and the intermediate sprint during the stage. The best score wears the green jersey. The points competition is always an exercise in arithmetic, usually addition but occasionally subtraction if a rider breaks a rule.

In the past this had been a “regularity contest” but the Tour’s scale is weighted to the sprinters with more points on offer for a flat stage than a summit finish. The idea is to give sprinters a reward rather than rewarding the rider already in yellow or polka-dots.

New for 2015: Now the points are tilted even more towards the sprinters:

  • winning a flat “sprint stage” means beaucoup points. As the chart above shows the 2015 scale is weighted massively to first place and placing in the lesser positions isn’t as rewarding. Flat stages offer 50-30-20-18-16-14-12-10-8-7-6-5-4-3 and 2 points for the first 15 riders on a flat stage compared to 45-35-30 and down last year
  • the hillier finishes are less rewarding. Stages with finishes on the Mur de Huy, in Mûr-de-Bretagne or the uphill run in Rodez earn 30-25-22 points and down for the first 15
  • the full amount of points per stage is listed at inrng.com/tour

Call it the “anti-Sagan” system, a year ago he had a hundred point lead by Stage 7. There are six identifiable sprint stages so win three flat stages and a sprinter has 150 points while if Sagan wins three hillier finishes he gets 75 points and will have to make the top-5 in a field sprint and win the intermediate sprints just to get level.

Re-run the 2014 Tour with the 2015 points system and Sagan would still win. But that’s a static calculation, the dynamic effect of the changes for 2015 encourages a rider like Mark Cavendish or Alexander Kristoff to stay in the contest knowing if they go on a winning streak then we’ll have a good contest during the race. At the same time Peter Sagan’s niche is getting crowded, once upon a for a short uphill sprint the only question was what kind of victory salute Sagan would deploy. Now Michael Matthews, John Degenkolb, Nacer Bouhanni, Bryan Coquard are possible winners and maybe Edvald Boasson Hagen too. So let’s look at the sprinters…

Alexander Kristoff 2015

Alexander Kristoff has 18 wins so far this year across a range of terrain from the Tour of Flanders to recent sprints in the Tour de Suisse. Since he started racing in February he’s won something in every month and surely he’s going to win in July. Last year he won two stages of the Tour including the irregular finish in St. Etienne. A relative weak point is his team with Jacopo Guarnieri, Marco Haller and Luca Paolini. They’re good but as sprint trains go he’s missing a carriage or two.

Mark Cavendish

Mark Cavendish has 13 wins so far in 2015 and a total of 25 stage wins in the Tour de France over the years. He’s had some good wins like Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne but a blank Tour de Suisse and has missed self-proclaimed targets like Milan-Sanremo. His ride in the British championships saw him ditch several Sky riders which bodes well for form, especially to harvest points on the hillier stages. His aero position, his expertise and a well-drilled lead out train with Matteo Trentin and Mark Renshaw mean he’s still the winning package.

Degenkolb Roubaix

John Degenkolb also had a discreet Tour de Suisse. Along with Kristoff he’s the best rider of the 2015 spring classics with his wins Milan-Sanremo and Paris-Roubaix but in a straight line sprint does he have the speed to beat Kristoff and Cavendish? He’s yet to beat Cavendish in head to head sprint but comes with a team built to deliver. His versatility means he’s excellent on the uphill finishes but so are others. You could think he earn points by finishing in the top-3 several times but remember the points are skewed to the stage winners.


The plan was for Peter Sagan to rack up wins in the spring classics so that come the Tour de France anything was a bonus for a Tinkoff-Saxo squad built around Alberto Contador. Alas many will remember Sagan’s spring campaign for the undignified image of him squatting a ditch in Paris-Roubaix. Since then things have improved with the overall win in the Tour of California and his annual festival in the Tour de Suisse. He knows his team is there for Contador but Daniele Bennati and Michael Valgren can probably work for him. Of all the bunch sprints the Tour’s wide finishes don’t suit him so well, he thrives on sharp handling and acrobatics but the Tour’s big boulevard finishes mean his bulk becomes an aerodynamic drag. In order to win green he’ll have to be active everyday but seems in good form and up for the challenge.

Michael Matthews

Michael Matthews rides his first Tour de France. A year ago a training ride smash put out of action just before the Tour. Still 24 he’s already got a reputation as a prize hunter capable of winning quality races but the Tour is a new level to attain. He can win flat finishes but thrives on the uphill finishes, for example Saint-Pourçain in Paris-Nice. He comes a strong team to serve him on the right days.

Bunch sprint wins, uphill finishes and even taking points on mountain stages? There was a time when Edvald Boasson Hagen could win anything, any time, anywhere. Now he’s riding as if he’s a waning 34 year old when he’s actually just turned 28. He’s put on weight for strength for the sprints and a stage win is possible but he’ll surely need some a lucky break here or there to beat the competition. As such a stage win is in range but on present form the green jersey looks elusive.

Greipel Giro 2015

André Greipel has ridden the Tour de France every year since 2011 and won a stage every time. Great consistency but a winning streak for the green jersey seems unlikely, he can beat the best on his day but not time after time. Lotto-Soudal are well drilled and he’ll be there for the stage wins and even if he’s 32 he’s just won the Ster ZLM Tour.

Arnaud Démare came close last year but 2015 hasn’t seen much progress. A tilt at the classics flopped although a spate of punctures just at the wrong moment was partially to blame. Still he’s got the raw speed and given a clear run to the line can be very hard to beat. Still 23 he’s got time to improve.

Nacer Bouhanni

Nacer Bouhanni won’t win the green jersey. The plan right now is to start the Tour de France in recovery mode for the opening stages as he gets over his crash in the French championships. He’s already training and Cofidis’ plan is to sit tight until Stage 5. But will Bouhanni stick to the script, it seems hard to imagine him sitting out the sprint finish on Stage 2? His team are getting better with Geoffrey Soupe his version of Mark Renshaw. The wildcard invitees would sign today for a stage win.

Bryan Coquard

Completing the trinity of Frenchmen is Bryan Coquard. “The Mosquito” weighs less than 60kg and can sting on the uphill finishes but he’s easily swatted away too. He’s yet to win a World Tour race and now he’s lining up in the biggest of them all. Last year he kept contesting the intermediate sprints because he thought second in the points competition to the Slovak was “a good reference” only to finish third when Kristoff took points on the Champs Elysées. Europcar have struggled with leadouts but Yoann Gène and Bryan Nauleau will help.

Bora-Argon 18’s Sam Bennett makes his Tour début. He has beaten the best before already but he and his team will find the Tour a huge challenge. His team and Irish supporters would love a win but a top-3 would be excellent going with a view to winning again next year. Only sprinters are the most  impatient of them all and if you can sniff a stage win you won’t wait.

That’s about it. The Tour sees many of the top sprinters in action and other teams are so focussed on GC that they won’t bring their “house sprinter” so Team Sky leave Elia Viviani behind, Astana bench Andrea Guardini and so on. Among the other names for the punchy uphill finishes there’s David Cimolai and Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida), Simon Gerrans (Orica-Greenedge), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Zdeněk Štybar (Etixx-Quickstep), Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling), Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal), Bob Jungels (Trek Factory Racing), Ramūnas Navardauskas (Cannondale-Garmin) and Julien Simon (Cofidis).

Peter Sagan
Mark Cavendish, Alexander Kristoff
John Degenkolb, Michael Matthews
Coquard, Boasson-Hagen, Greipel

The rules have changed, first place on a flat “sprint” stage delivers a lot more points. If the competition rewards consistency, being consistently first in the sprint finishes is the best way to win. It should mean a more durable contest and force some to contest more intermediate sprints but all this is predicated on spreadsheet forecasts and reality will soon intervene. The course too is different with just six potential sprint finishes, fewer than ever.

Peter Sagan is the prime pick but he’ll have to push Mark Cavendish and Alexander Kristoff in the big bunch sprints and hope that the level among the sprints is close so that pure sprinters cancel each other out rather than seeing one on a winning streak to collect four or more stages.

59 thoughts on “Who Will Win The Green Jersey?”

  1. Superb feature – as always – in going beyond the most obvious candidates and filling in on the lead-out trains, etc.

    The photo of Coquard is a tremendous selection. Proof that even in this modern day world of super-slick, OTT marketing, there are still opportunties for a ‘What on earth is that all about?’ initiative.

  2. “Peter Sagan is the prime pick but he’ll have to push Mark Cavendish and Alexander Kristoff in the big bunch sprints and hope that the level among the sprints is close so that pure sprinters cancel each other out rather than seeing one on a winning streak to collect four or more stages.”

    Well yes : in previous years, Cavendish, Kittel and Greipel were each in-turn either winning a sprint stage or coming in in the bunch : Sagan was consistently coming in 4th in all of them and through consistency won the Green even though he didn’t actually win the sprints
    – this new heavier points emphasis on coming 1st is presumably an attempt to address that.

    How many points do you get for intermediates this year ?

    • The first 15 riders get points: 20-17-15-13-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 points. Nice way to keep interest in an intermediate sprint if there is only a small breakaway rolling through ahead of the peleton.

  3. Slightly off topic, but what is the plan for Sacha Modolo? Didn’t he leave the Tour after Yorkshire with his tail between his legs after being unable to cope with the pace and bustle of the race? Will he stick to stage wins at the Giro and Vuelta? Or is it likely he’ll come back next year?

  4. Amazing track record for Michael Matthews so far in 2015: he’s started four stages races, won a stage in all of them and worn the leader’s jersey in three (including the Giro); while he has contested four one day races and made the podium in three, a DNF in Flèche the only exception. Not sure about Green, but I think a stage win is likely for him.

    And speaking of OGE, Michael Albasini is yet another name to add to the long list of “guys who can win punchy, hilly sprints after big climbs”.

      • And with OGE saying that Gerrans and Matthews will both be going for stages that scuppers Matthews chances of trying to get the Green, looks like they’re not interested in it.

        When I saw Bouhanni walk to the finish line with his bike over his shoulder I thought he didn’t look too badly damaged, he was fit and well enough to walk rather than be carted off by helpers.. I think there could be a bit of over-reaction and throwing-toys-out-of-pram going on and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is not as badly damaged as he is letting on, as seems to be the way these days when a rider gets a knock (Cav saying he’ll need to get his shoulder looked at after the Nationals etc).
        I think he has a good chance of picking up points here and there and could do well in the points competition this year. Of course I could be wrong and he could be in a lot of pain, but with so few sprint opportunities after the first week why bring him if he’s badly bashed up?



        • “I think there could be a bit of over-reaction and throwing-toys-out-of-pram going on and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is not as badly damaged as he is letting on, as seems to be the way these days when a rider gets a knock”

          We’re slowly but surely seeing the graduates from “the El Pistolero School of Hypochondria”.

        • Bouhanni is a boxer – does he feel pain like normal men ?

          Mind-you, whilst getting in a ring and trying to bash hell out of some other bloke and letting him bash hell out of you seems astonishingly stupid/brutal thing to do, so does riding a bike at pro level…

      • Him and Impey probably will be, but Albasini did get second on a stage from a breakaway in 2013 and a bunch of top 10s last year.

  5. Another lovely piece of writing to titillate the cycling taste buds, and a very interesting sub-plot to the main event this year.
    I would still not look beyond Sagan, personally.
    As noted, there are only six ‘sprint’ finish stages with maximum points and these could very well be split between the aforementioned candidates – you cannot see Cavendish or Kristoff not winning at least one stage surely, and the punchier finishes brings numerous other candidates in to consideration.

    But, for his versatility and all-round strength, I cannot see beyond Sagan again.
    He had a poor Spring Season, then put himself on his way to redemption by almost killing himself to snatch the Tour of California.
    I have no doubt that his boss, in his own seemingly more stick-than-carrot way, has let Sagan know in no uncertain terms that he must bring home the Green Jersey.
    He comes out with some very odd statements does Mr Tinkoff, that would surely upset many western European riders (can you imagine Wiggins riding for him ??) but perhaps he hits a chord with his fellow Slav in Mr Sagan ?
    But Sagan seems to be a riding like a man on a mission now and I feel he will be an even more worthy Green Jersey winner come Paris.

    • +1. Sagan has been doing it his way for a few years now due to the lack of help first Cannondale and now Tinkoff are prepared to supply to him. Often that means he cannot win the biggest races because he has to do too much but it does mean he has developed the nose for always being there or thereabouts. I fancy him to keep bagging points whilst others are happy with a win.

  6. “Now Michael Matthews, John Degenkolb, Nacer Bouhanni, Bryan Coquard are possible winners ”

    Bryan Coquard is a possible winner if everyone else falls off. Other than that, no chance.

  7. When you mention six sprint finishes I take it that you have included the Le Havre stage, but even though it does give full points, I don’t think the likes of Kristoff and Cavendish will contend for the win. It is a bit similar to Cauberg, though not at the end of a 260km long classic, so I see it as a stage for Sagan, Matthews, Bouhanni (depending on how well he will recover from his crash), GvA, Valverde, Kwiatkowski and perhaps Degenkolb and Coquard as well.

  8. Intermediate sprints are the key. You cant win points jersey there but you have to sprint there to stay in contention. Usual morning break contains no more then five riders so there will be like ~11 points to grab, worth a look for sure. Not sure if every top sprinter will try to fight on intermediate sprints. Guys like Greipel, Degenkolb and Kristoff might forgo it and focus purely on stage wins. Last year both Kristoff and Greipel didn’t bother about intermedtiate sprints. While Coquard will be there on all stages 😉

    Also, there are only two pure bunch sprint stages in first week (stages 5 & 7). Even stage two is far from typical sprint stage because of wind. Even with good weather and no wind… there will be wind anyway. Stages 6 and 8 are perfect for Sagan to gain points. On cobbles he will get some either. More then enough to gain advantage on Cav and Kristoff.

    The points system doesn’t really matter with Sagan on the start. He’s the guy made for this kind of competitions. He can contest in bunch sprint and win a stage with no other sprinter at the finish. It’s perfect recipe for the win of green jersey and I cant see anyone passing him.

  9. Just a quick word or Cav’s form. I was at the British Nationals on Sunday and he was superb, closing down Stannard and Kennaugh pretty much on his own when they had a gap of a couple of minutes at one point. The finishing circuit that they did 8 times had a tough climb on it and although Kennaugh just managed to beat Cav, Cav’s riding was very impressive on the day. He looks in top top form so perhaps some of the punchier stages at the Tour he will be contending as well ?

    • So the obvious ones for Cav are: 2,5,7,21. 15 also likely
      Good form gives him a shot at contesting 6 and 13
      Surely he won’t be there sur les Murs?

      • No, he won’t be there. We have some Cav based over enthusiasm here. Wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t contest the finish in stage 2 or stage 5 and he certainly won’t win on the Murs.

  10. My first question is are all those listed really interested in the green jersey in Paris or will they concentrate on stage wins and let the green jersey points fall where they may? Is Sagan going to find himself in a situation like Cavendish did at SKY?

    • Thanks for that.
      Cavendish possibly ? Etixx don’t seem to have a candidate for a podium, so it will be stage wins / Cavendish as their goal, I would guess.
      I think I may agree with your blog when you say that Kristoff may be Sagan’s closest competitor for Green.

  11. Sagan is the sure bet, if only to save a pretty lack lustre season. At least he will look better in green rather than that comedy outfit he has to wear now.

  12. I notice that in Mollema’s blog on CN today he says that cycling is becoming ‘more and more dangerous’ – particularly the Tour. This is oft repeated, but is their any evidence for it – any stats Inner Ring?
    I don’t think I’ve noticed more crashes now than say 10 or 20 years ago – but then I haven’t been comparing racing through the decades any more than Mollema has, I daresay.

    • Yes, interesting stuff there. The 3km rule is a tricky one, though. For a sprint stage, yes, perhaps taking GC times there make sense, but what about stage 3 at the TdF, finishing on the Muy de Huy? Combine that sort of finish with with bonus time for the top finishers, and, well, what can you do?

      It does seem incredible that there are 200+ racers in the mix. Figure for a sprint stage, at least a quarter, if not more, will be vying to get to the front in the closing kilometers. That seems like a recipe for disaster.

  13. I look forward to INRNG’s ‘Who will win the Yellow Jersey’ – as it would be extraordinary if Tinkoff won both the yellow and green.

    I do not doubt Sagan’s ability to go it alone, but with a team dedicated to the yellow jersey, and all the stress of the most-contested race of the year, I just don’t see them keeping up the fight to beat the world’s best in both competitions.

    For this reason alone, I think Kristoff will take it. Kristoff will have the edge on Cavendish in the non-pure sprints.

    Obviously if Contador crashes out, I believe Sagan will take it.

  14. HWSB > Sagan is not on his own for the sprints, he has got Bennati and Valgren. That’s a great lead-out. Sagan is strong enough to finish short in every stage in the first week, can’t see the others doing that.

    • More strange comments from Oleg Tinkoff today, see the Twitter link.
      He has suggested that the Green Jersey for Sagan is not a primary goal, so it seems like he will have to do it himself more or less.
      There seems to be an undercurrent between Sagan and the owner also, in the same blog he was quite measured about the possibility (should that be likelihood ?) that Sagan may leave the team next season.

      • He also says ‘I’m ready to boycott the 2016 Tour de France’.
        The man is precisely what cycling doesn’t need – greedy rich people who want to be more rich.
        Contador must be cursing the day he re-signed.
        Almost every time he opens his mouth, Tinkov shows what an obnoxious, vainglorious imbecile he is.

        • on the other hand, he’s a bit of a bore, but is happy to stump up his cash to support pro-cycling (in an era of austerity). So as long as you know that he shoots his mouth off and just ignore him (or laugh at him) what’s the problem. Sure we’d all love to have the blue chips sponsoring the teams etc, but unless cyclists stop cheating that is unlikely…

        • I read the Tinkoff blog this morning and suddenly realized that he reminds me very much of Donald Trump in the U.S.
          It is all about blather and getting noticed. No substance, no nuance.
          Maybe Mr. Tinkoff has found his ideal co-sponsor!

        • Just a bit of nuance to add to your comment. Tinkoff said he is prepared to boycott the 2016 Tour de France IF EVERYONE ELSE DOES.

          Personally, I don’t regard him as remotely an imbecile. You don’t get to his position without having some kind of smarts. He wasn’t born rich. He made it himself. If you want my 2 cents Vaughters is much more of an imbecile than Tinkoff.

        • Do you really think Tinkov plans to make money from cycling? And, just how will he do that? If you have some good ideas, I’d bet he’d take a phone call from you. He might even cut you in.

          I like Tinkov. I like colorful people generally. I hope he’s around for a while.

          • I don’t like him personally – but that’s not important.
            I don’t like what he has done in cycling historically – but that’s true of many others.
            I don’t like his ideas for cycling – because they’re bad for cycling. And that’s the thing that matters.
            For instance, his idea of shortening the grand tours and having the best riders competing against each other in every one.
            Shortening grand tours would devalue them completely. A two week grand tour would be nowhere near as good.
            Also, having the ‘best riders’ in every race will not necessarily lead to more exciting racing.
            Why would anyone want to see VN/AC/CF/NQ go head-to-head in three two-week non-grand tours, rather than watch three proper grand tours through the season?
            Also, the current situation of having four fairly equal riders at the top is rare. Far more commonly, you end up with one dominant rider. How dull would it be to watch that rider cruise to win all three grand tours (and this trifecta would now be meaningless, rather than mythical)?
            This is a fairly simple thing to see.
            Tinkov is probably intelligent enough to see this – but he doesn’t care: he wants the cash
            For the same reason, I don’t think Cookson knows what is good for the sport: he said:
            “We want to plan for a better sport, in that the best riders compete in the best races. With the current structure of three Grand Tours of three weeks it is impossible.”
            And he had his initial plans to cut the number of races (and now plans to increase that number – what is he doing?).

          • See, the problem is, people like Tinkov don’t realise they can be colourful and opinionated without being self-centered clickbait-spawning Twitter-trolling jackasses.

  15. Sagan still highly likely but it’s a good thing to encourage the others to at least contest things. Without the weighting changes it would be tempting for all the sprint big guns to not even bother with the intermediates so sure would a Sagan win be in the absence of accident or illness. Hopefully now we’ll get some added mid stage excitement as a result.

  16. Michael Mathews he has savvy and smarts for taking many points during the Tour and he’s completed the Giro before so can survive to the Champs Ellysse

  17. Let’s cheer for Degenkolb, after all the future of German terrestrial TV coverage depends on him, and he did well in the movie clean spirit and seems to abhor doping!
    If he has issues then it’s Cavendish.

  18. I didn’t read all the comments so someone may have mentioned this… but while there’s 5 more points for “flat” stage wins there’s a remarkable 30 fewer points for the top 6. So if you win every flat stage you’re good, but if your placings are equally divided between 1 and 2 it becomes a wash and anything worse than this and the flat-landers are at a disadvantage.

    It will be interesting… a lot comes down to who wants it.

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