Who Will Win The Green Jersey?

Peter Sagan

A trick question? Peter Sagan was such a convincing winner of the Tour de France points competition last year that it’s hard to imagine anyone else winning. He’s taken the green jersey home four years in a row and even when they changed the rules to tilt the competition against him last year he still won.

So why ask the question? Because it’s still worth posing and also gives us the chance to assess his rivals. Above all if last year’s rule tweak was anti-Sagan, this year’s route is too. Here’s a closer look at the competition from the points scale to the likely scorers.

The Rules
Points are awarded at the finish and the intermediate sprints. The points available vary according to the stages and are heavily tilted to the sprint finishes, there is next to no chance that the eventual winner is a GC contender.

  • Flat stages / Coefficient 1: 50-30-20-18-16-14-12-10-8-7-6-5-4-3 and 2 points for the first 15 riders
  • Hilly finish-Medium mountain stages / Coefficient 2 and 3: 30-25-22-19-17-15-13-11-9-7-6- 5-4-3-2 points
  • Mountain Stages / Coefficient 4 and 5: 20-17-15-13-11- 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 points
  • Individual time trial stages / Coefficient 6 : 20-17-15-13-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 points
  • Intermediate sprints: 20-17-15-13-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 points

What’s different this year is that there are nine Coefficient 1 stages compared to six last year and there are four Coefficient 2 and 3 stages for 2016 compared to seven last year. This makes the 2016 route more binary: either a flat sprint finish or a mountain stage. There are fewer Saganesque stages, those hilly stages that were too much for the other sprinters.

Sagan Suisse

Peter Sagan‘s chances are still high. If they built a wall to stop him he’d ride straight though it like a cartoon character leaving a hole in the shape of a cyclist. If there are more sprint finishes than last year that’s fine as he was sprinting with the best in the Tour de Suisse, albeit the best in that race a relatively weak contest compared to the mouthwatering sprint royale contests to come in July. It’s this competition that could help, perversely Sagan’s best hope for green could be his rivals. It’s better for Sagan that the likes of Greipel, Kittel, Kristoff, Bouhanni and Cavendish all pop up for a win rather than one single rider repeatedly scoring maximum points. Meanwhile Sagan can aim to place regularly and then score and even win on the few days when the others cannot, say, in Cherbourg, Le Lioran, Revel and Culoz. Having won the contest four times already though you wonder if he’s bored by it all, or at least if he’d swap green for that elusive stage win? For all his consistency in recent years he hasn’t won a stage since 2013.

Michael Matthews

Michael Matthews is in search of Tour de France glory and a better nickname. He’s won stages of the Giro and Vuelta and is a challenger for the points competition because of his versatility. Everything Sagan can do, Matthews will want to copy. The Australian can contest bunch sprints and win uphill finishes but, like the rest of the peloton, lacks the inventive genius of Sagan when it comes to exploiting terrain and street furniture. They’re both born in 1990 and in head-to-head sprint contests the advantage is massively towards Sagan. Like Sagan he’ll also have to share a team with broader ambitions as Orica-Greenedge back Adam Yates for the overall and aim for stage wins elsewhere too.

Edvald Boasson Hagen Dauphiné

If the Critérium du Dauphiné is a form guide for the Tour de France then Edvald Boasson Hagen is ready for July. He took a stage and won the points competition earlier this month and is another versatile rider who can contest bunch sprints, infiltrate breakaways and take uphill finishes. That said he wasn’t flying in the Dauphiné in the same way Sagan was in Suisse, there were days when you might have expected the Boasson Hagen of old to strike but he was missing, for example finishing 94th in the first uphill finish to Chalmazel. He’s also got to share opportunities with Dimension Data team mate Mark Cavendish which suggests stage hunting rather than going for green.

Bryan Coquard is another sprinter who floats over the hills, Le Coq weighs less than 60 kilos. This puts him in the bracket with Matthews and Sagan but his results don’t match, he’s yet to win a World Tour race, pecking on a diet of races on the French calendar instead. Still he’s two years younger than them. In 2014 he kept chasing points throughout the Tour de France when Sagan had an insurmountable lead because for him finishing second to Sagan was a result and besides Sagan could have quit the race ill or with a crash. Green seems unlikely but he and his team will sign for a stage win.

Among the pure sprinters Marcel Kittel leads the charge. Absent last year, he’s still enjoyed a strong record in the Tour de France and has had an excellent season so far this year, settling into the Quickstep sprint train with first class ease. He’ll hope to score 50 points several times over, just one stage win for him brings in more points than two third places for Sagan; win several stage wins and he can pull out a big lead. Easier said than done, his bulk means the mountains take their toll on him, which part explains his departure in the Giro. Riders don’t quit the Tour de France in the same way they bailed on the Giro, at least not the sprinters who can dream of Paris rather than Rio…

Mark Cavendish

…with the exception of Mark Cavendish and his track ambitions. But this surely precludes him from winning the green jersey? The yellow jersey on the opening day is an alluring target for him, it’s one of the few prizes in the sport that’s eluded him. He could take this, especially if he can harness added power from his track training. The demands of the Omnium and its intense events like the Kilo impose a burden to port across the Alps in the third week. It’s not certain he makes it to Paris given his Olympic ambitions.

André Greipel won four stages of the Tour last year, a surprise as he always pops up for a stage win in a grand tour but not so many. Age doesn’t seem to be slowing him down and he’ll turn 34 during the Tour. He won three stages of the Giro before bailing out, there could have been more if he’d stayed on but he wanted to rest and restart for the Tour de France. Last year he came to the Tour de France having stormed the Ster ZLM Tour with two stages wins and tenth place in the prologue, his ride there was less strong this year but he was still active and has just won the German national title outsprinting Max Walscheid and Marcel Kittel.

Alexander Kristoff enjoyed a great season last year only to come up short in July where his best place in a sprint was third. He should do better here but he can lack that top-end speed, it’s why he’s so strong in the classics when the weather’s foul and stamina counts for so much after six hours of racing. A challenge for the green jersey looks hard, for him and Katusha a pair of stage wins will do nicely. He’s a powerful sprinter who likes to start his sprint earlier than most which, points wise, means if he gets overtake in the final metres he’s still going to collect points.

Nacer Bouhanni

Nacer Bouhanni isn’t starting. A fist-fight with drunken hotel guests lead to him cutting his hand open and it being stitched together at 5am on the morning of the French national championships which he then rode and his bandaged hand got a severe infection and he’s now out is one of the few riders outside of the World Tour teams who can win the World Tour sprints as his successes in Paris-Nice, the Dauphiné, Giro and Vuelta show. He can cope with a climb and an uphill finish as his Milan-Sanremo podium shows or his 10th place in the hilly Ponferrada World Championships too. Success in the Tour de France remains elusive for him but this won’t stop him trying and the French phrase ça passe ou ça casse applies, make or break and for Bouhanni sprinting, even life, can be combat.

Finally a few more names to look out for. John Degenkolb is still finding his way back from injury and the finger splint he sports makes changing gears and braking more awkward, especially given his headbanging sprint style which surely requires the firmest grip of the bars, . Julian Alaphilippe has contested bunch sprints before but with Kittel he won’t need to and can save himself for more suitable stages. Dylan Groenewegen will be flying the Dutch flag this year in the sprints and he’s impressed a lot this year with his power and leg speed but this is his first grand tour and he’s yet to race in the Alps and Pyrenees.

Peter Sagan
André Greipel, Marcel Kittel
Michael Matthews
Alexander Kristoff
Bouhanni, Coquard, Boasson Hagen

A fifth win for Sagan? It’s likely but this year’s route won’t give him so many opportunities to earn points on the days when the other sprinters cannot. Should a sprinter like Kittel or Greipel collect multiple stage wins they can build up a lead and maybe keep the competition going all the way to Paris. It’s still an ancillary competition, the primary goal for all is stage wins. The next big question is whether Sagan can finally win a stage after two Tours without a victory celebration?

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

  1. I’d bump the German duo down to three chainrings, to put them on par with Matthews and to create a gap to Sagan, as he is head and shoulder above the rest in this competition.

    • I started out thinking like this but the sheer number of flat finishes for the sprinters suits the German pair. Some days there might be breakaways but several sprint teams will work hard to set up a sprint finish.

      • Last year Sagan was getting into breakaways right through into the final week to shore up points from the intermediate sprints. That was class, and something the pure sprinters are unable to do.

          • Spring Classics is One Thing, Tour De France is another. The Gorilla mainly focuses on Stage Wins and not the Jersey itself as he knows he can’t match Sagan in stages that involve Big Mountains before a intermediate sprint point( which Sagan Can Take Easily from a Breakaway). It’s gonna be the same story Again this year, The Two Germans and Cav along with Nacer will focus on the Bunch Sprints, Matthews( gonna have to worry about Gerrans who will look to grab some stages that Matthews can challenge in), Kristoff( wait until week 3 to see him possibly grab a stage win). EBH seems like the only “challenger” to Sagan, but as was said above he might spend the early stages helping out Cav and Go Stage Hunting for Himself Later on in the Race.

  2. As with last year, Sagan’s biggest rival is DNF or DNS. Neither of which are likely.

    EBH could’ve been the most likely challenger, but given Dimension Data will be riding for Cav in the early stages, he’ll miss out on a lot of crucial points. I fancy Coquard has a slightly better chance; I’d bump him up a chainring.

    The early sprints in this Tour are going to be *in-sane*. Cavendish, Kittel, Greipel, Bouhanni, Kristoff, Demare and more. Has there ever been as strong a field of sprinters?

  3. Sagan is The outlier. A phenom who is just coming into his own, career wise. I wonder where he’ll peak.

    I agree with MultiRant, the first week is potentially something that we have never seen; I hope everyone on the list is in top form for maximum entertainment.

  4. I’m going up Ventoux next week, glad to see it’s a non mountainous coefficient 3…… didn’t need to do all that training!

  5. Just a small correction, I think you’ve missed out a dash on the points score for the 3/4 finish on a medium mountain or high mountain stage . Otherwise a strategic piece of finishing could see you win the whole competition in one stage 😉

  6. I think it will be Sagan again, but if one particular sprinter hoovers up multiple sprint stages plus given the line-up there is going to be a lot of fighting for position in the final stages.

    Just on a note on Cavendish/Greipel , is it fair to say that Cavendish as a sprinter is a diminishing force?

    What has changed for Cav? Now he is 3 years younger than Greipel who in my view is probably second to Kittel, but I feel Greipel is better than Cav. As personally I don’t see Cav beating those two when they’re on their best.

    Plus Greipel is the same age as me so gives me hope of still been a sprint king 😉

    • After finishing a very close second to Kittel at Scheldeprise this year, Cavendish explained that Kittel had beaten him in the ladt few metres with a second kick, adding that he, himself, used to be able to do that, but can’t anymore. So, it would seem that Cavendish himself feels he has lost a bit of something, although perhaps not off his top end speed.

      • I’ve always been a big Cav fan… but it feels like he has just lost the edge of pace. Interestingly he was on Eurosport today saying that he prefers a smaller group than he used to as a result of a few crashes. Also mentioned that sprinting is harder now that technology has advanced… the differences between the top guys has been narrowed because the base speed of the average rider has increased. Given that his advantage was always as much his position on the bike as his raw power I wonder if this could be affecting him more than a rider like Kittel or Griepel.

        I personally feel he’s missed a couple of tricks in his career…. both when he joined Sky and they took a bit of weight off him, and then with Boonen at Etixx… I think both times he could have adjusted further and made the jump to one-day races.

        • Agreed, Cav is an interesting case. He’s definitely lost a bit of top end speed. I wonder if his explanation is true, or alternatively that Cav’s aerodynamic position should have a greater effect at higher speed.

          However, I’m inclined to agree a bit with Cav, even though it does sound a little like he’s making excuses.

          • We’ll soon see. It feels as if many are tiptoeing around his decline as a sprinter, it’s inevitable as time passes. Sometimes he takes a few stages to get going in the race so don’t write him off if he flops on the opening stage, but the longer the race goes on surely the more likely he’ll quit thinking of Rio?

          • I agree. I can’t really see Cav compete in any of the sprints, at least not for a win. And, if he skips town for Rio then is there any point being there (as he could just collect points for green jerseys).

            He only seems to succeed these days in minor races where the sprint competition is second rate. His second place to Kittel seems to basically sum it up.

            Griepel is the comeback king and keeps surprising me in the way he is able to reinvent himself as a sprinter. He’s my pick for second place in the Green jersey on the basis that he will make it through the mountains whereas Kittel may not, and the remit for EBH seems to be too wide and non-specific. This begs the question of what an EBH at the tour is for. A good rider but he has not been able to live up to expectations of late.

          • He’s is definitely IN and as massive fan of Peter Sagan I am glad there is a a greater competition for him than the rules they keep adjusting to make it more difficult to win

          • contrasting Wiggins and Cav… Wiggins has commited fully to the track, and bulked up considerably to meet the demands, and looks in fearsome pursuit form. Cav I fear is going to fall in the gap and end up having a poor tour (by his standards) and then getting 6th or something in the Omnium and not figuering in the team pursuit… which is a shame because he’s a ledge…

          • It’s good to see that Cav is exceeding everyone’s expectation on this years’ tour, including his own.
            Will be interesting now if he targets yet more stage wins after these 3 or settles at that for TDF for this year.

  7. While it’s true that three stages have gone from the hilly category to flat from last year to this year, it actually isn’t the disadvantage for Sagan as one would think. Last year only had Le Havre as a Sagan stage with full points, while this year has both Cherbourg and Bern with full points, while stage 3 & 4 both seem fairly suited to Sagan.

    The biggest advantage for Sagan however, is that this year Kittel will be in the mix. I strongly doubt he’ll go 100% for the jersey, meanwhile he will take the precious 50 points for the stage wins away from Sagan’s main competition. If Greipel ‘only’ wins one or two stages, I don’t think he’ll have enough of an early lead against Sagan.

  8. Interesting, I would have said Sagan right away but not so sure anymore, think there’s value for others. 2-3 stage wins for Kittel and he’s going to have a big lead and a new goal to aim for. Meanwhile he’s got the team to make like hard for Sagan thanks to guys like Alphilippe and both Martins.

    • I agree…But maybe that’s what Peter needs. Bigger push. This tdf is u unravelling as very exciting eventho the GC contenders are not really creating the hype. Yet

  9. Is Kittel less likely to make it through the mountains and to Paris this year given that EQS may have Alaphallipe fighting for white and DMartin for a top 5?

    • From what I have seen Kittel is becoming more and more a highly specialized one-trick pony. While INRNG himself wrote about saganesque stages, there are also Kittel-stages, the ones that are flat enough for Kittel to look like the worlds best sprinter. I am not saying he isn’t but he looses to other sprinters by dropping out of the bunch before the sprint, which is why we seldom see him loosing the sprint itself.
      He remains first pick for sprinter outside time limit on a mountain stage, but he has made it to Paris before. The TdF suits him better than the other GTs as he really is a (or the) boulevard sprinter.

      • Well Kittel just lost a plain sprint to greipel at the German nationals. Greipel was head and shoulders above him and the rest of the field. And that is without either of them having had the comfort of their trains. Go figure.

  10. Orica have said that Matthews wont contest the flat stages and his focus will be a stage win on the (few) stages that suit him. Surely this rules him out.

    I think Coquard will exceed expectations and might be Sagan’s closest rival.

  11. I can’t see Kittel winning enough stages to win the jersey – He won’t be allowed in any breaks to hoover up the intermediate points, so it’s stage wins/high places or bust for him.

    I just think there’s too many stages where Kittel will score no points at all, whereas Sagan chips away by picking up intermediates here & there plus high stage placings.

    • As if Sagan would be “allowed in any breaks to hoover up the intermediate points”. But he does go into breaks, cause he can.
      While Kittel just can’t, that was never his kind of racing. Face it, he’s a one trick pony who can win bunch sprints with a train, on flatish stages. The moment there is a slightly challenging uphill section on the course, he mostly fades away. And that’s why he never will win the Green.

  12. Massive Cav fan – alas i think he will not get the record for most stage wins currently at 26 needs 34 now as others have said he is a diminishing force – i still believe though and UK Cycling owe this man a debt.

    Sagan for me again this year despite the tweaks and the route his all round versatlity is amazing.

    Great detail in this write up once again – Thank you inrng

    • An infrequent winner and he rides for Lampre who often treat the Tour de France as secondary to the Giro, it doesn’t bode well for his chances. An outsider for a stage win at best rather than taking the jersey ahead of the big names above surely?

  13. I would like to point out that Jens Debusschere is in a whole bunch of those photos (EBH, Coquard, and Bouhanni). One of those “always in the mix but rarely a winner” kind of guys. He will be a great teammate for Greipel.

Comments are closed.