Who Will Win The Green Jersey?

Peter Sagan? Casual followers of the sport who tune in for the Tour de France rather than the whole season can be forgiven for thinking Sagan’s team kit is green given spends he spends most of July in the maillot vert and he’s won it five times in a row.

So another verdant victory? Probably but this year’s route offers more stages to the pure sprinters than usual allowing a dominant sprinter to rack up points ahead of a consistent Sagan. Here’s a look at the competition, the points scale, the stages and the likely challengers for the green jersey and the sprint stages.

First let’s look at the points available. They’re weighted towards the flat stages as a means to make the green jersey for the best sprinters:

  • Flat stages (Stages 2, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 16, 21) 50-30-20-18-16-14-12-10-8-7-6-5-4-3 and 2 points for the first 15 riders
  • Hill finish/Medium mountain stages (Stages 3, 5, 8, 14, 15, 19): 30-25-22-19-17-15-13-11-9-7-6- 5-4-3-2 points
  • Mountain Stages (Stages 9, 12, 13, 17, 18): 20-17-15-13-11- 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 points
  • Individual time trial stages (Stages 1 and 20): 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

The scale is the same as last year but of course the route is not. This time there are nine flat finishes perfect for the sprinters, more than last year. Also there are are fewer “Sagan” stages with only Stage 3 to Longwy and Stage 14 to Rodez offering the kind of uphill finishes where Sagan can bank on scoring beaucoup while the sprinters struggle with gravity. So we have more stages for the pure sprinters and fewer for Sagan. To illustrate with a hypothetical example, imagine if Marcel Kittel wins three stages and Sagan places third each time, the German is on 50 x 3 = 150 points, Sagan 20 x 3 = 60 points and if the Slovak won three intermediate sprints he’d get 20 x 3 = 60 points, so still behind Kittel. Still, they’ve changed the scoring before to make the competition closer and Sagan has still run away with it, each time the goalposts move he adapts. Last year he took 470 points with Marcel Kittel on 228.

Peter Sagan

Rather than asking whether Peter Sagan can win, let’s ask what can stop him? Not easy, in the event of bad luck then if there’s someone who can pull out an emergency save to avoid crashing surely it’s Sagan? On more objective grounds he wasn’t as convincing as usual in the Tour de Suisse, losing in Cham and Bern in finishes normally perfect for him… even if he later when on to win two stages which closes down these doubts.

If not what, then who? Michael Matthews can do plenty of what Sagan does and then some more. Perhaps Matthews isn’t as consistently quick in a bunch sprint but he can climb better and even take points in a time trial stage. However the Australian, now with Team Sunweb, has his work cut out and surely the goal is a good opening time trial, some time bonuses and a spell in yellow before in the Planche des Belles Filles; if not then a stage win along the way and see what comes with the points.

Marcel Kittel (Quick Step) is in form with a stage win in the Ster ZLM and he could have had another were it not for a mechanical during a sprint, he was even second in the prologue too. He comes with a big sprint train to help and in case extra motivation is needed his contract is up. He’s been underpaid and (brace your jaw) earning half of what Nacer Bouhanni collects, the price to pay to get out of his previous contract. Remember the points system is weighted to the stage winner so if Kittel can get some multiple wins the points will follow but you sense he’s after multiple stage wins, the rest is a bonus and besides as we saw last year he can be beaten regularly.

There’s talk 29 year old Kittel is slowing with age but no worries for André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) who will turn 35 this July and maintains a record of winning at least one stage in every grand tour he’s ridden since 2008, a run that is bound to end the more often its cited and he was close last year winning on the Champs Elysées. He’s sometimes handy in the hills too, or at least courageous enough to try and attack on a mountain stage to mop up an intermediate sprint but like the others surely stage wins come first.

Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) won four stages last year but by the time he left the race in Bern he was still over a hundred points behind Sagan so accumulating stage wins is necessary but not sufficient to wear green. This year even one win would be nice for the Manxman because he’s been out with mononucleosis. The well-informed Cycling Podcast suggests he might retire from the race before the mountains too as he tries to get closer to Merckx’s stage tally.

Dylan Groenewegen (Lotto-Jumbo) is pure sprinter hunting for his first big win, so far a stage in the Eneco Tour is the best line on his palmarès but you sense it’s a matter of time until he wins a Tour stage. Again a stage win is the target.

Alexander Kristoff is having a difficult year with contractual concerns putting his future with Katusha in doubt and fewer results than usual, especially in big races. But he’s been close, often and it won’t take much for him to pop up and take stage win, especially in one of the pure flat dragstrip finishes.

Is Arnaud Démare (FDJ) a sprinter? He can still become a classics contender but packs a powerful finish, able to launch long sprint with a big gear after being launched by his team, rather a snappy high torque twist in the final 50 metres after surfing the wheels. He could win a stage or two but if his sprint style is powerful, it’s one dimensional so replicating the success of the recent Dauphiné amid the hurly-burly of the Tour is his challenge.

Nacer Bouhanni

Nacer Bouhanni has that versatility, his problem is form because he took a long time to recover from concussion after a hard crash in the Tour de Yorkshire. He was a contender in the Dauphiné but no more however he trains hard and wasn’t far off Démare in the French championships so he should finally start the Tour in reasonable shape, an improvement on previous fiascos. All he needs is one stage win to end Cofidis’s long drought, they haven’t won since 2008.

John Degenkolb came close last year but his horrific training crash last year still seems to hamper him, once a prolific winner now he’s finding it harder to convert regular top-10 placings into wins. But he’s good in a straight sprint and versatile for those uphill finishes too.

Ben Swift (UAE Emirates), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida), Patrick Bevin (Cannondale-Drapac) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) are riders capable of challenging Sagan, Matthews and Degenkolb in the sprints and on the hilly finishes too but need some luck. Swift, Colbrelli and Bevin are versatile but yet to win a grand tour stage although that’s partly because they’ve had few chances so far while Boasson Hagen doesn’t get the results he used to enjoy.

Among others sprinters Dan McClay (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) is waiting for a breakthrough win and his team would be happy with a top-3, Adrien Petit (Direct Energie) is a lead-out expert tasked with sprinting in the absence of Bryan Coquard but track specialist Thomas Boudat could sprint too. Michael Albasini and Jens Keukeleire bring sprint options for Orica-Scott even if the Aussies are chasing the GC this year.

Peter Sagan
Michael Matthews
Marcel Kittel
Démare, Greipel

History sprint:

  • early editions of the Tour de France were based on points rather than time
  • On the Tour’s 50th anniversary the points concept was revived and the classement par points was launched in 1953 with a green jersey
  • Why green? Because it was the corporate tone of La Belle Jardinière, a clothing shop in Paris and the original competition sponsor
  • It’s always been green except for a red edition in 1968
  • Erik Zabel holds the record with six wins, often collecting the prize on the Champs Elysées with his son Rick… who now starts this year’s Tour with Katusha
  • Peter Sagan is second with five wins
  • It’s a points competition and not the “sprinters’ jersey” but only two overall winners have won green too, Eddy Merckx (1969, 1971, 1972) and Bernard Hinault (1979)

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

  1. Matthews has stated he’s interested in the Green jersey, whereas I think for the majority of Sprinters like Kittel, Greipel, Cavendish and of course the French contingent stage wins will probably be the priority. Plus last year Orica had GC ambitions so sent a more balanced team, but it looks like Sunweb are backing Matthews as a proven winner in big races rather than Barguil who looks like a top 15 contender at best.

    • If Matthews does make a decent play for it, hopefully this opens up the competition for everyone else as well… if Sagan has to work a bit harder for his intermediate/mid-mountain points.

      • gotta think (and hope) Matthews goes balls out for this – he represents Sunweb’s best chance of a jersey here and he’s got the all-round attributes.

        • In retrospect Matthews will be seen to have been a naive hope. He is like all those “GC contenders” that end up 15 minutes down in 12th place. Results are what count and he has too few. The only people who can win green are Sagan or a pure sprinter who wins 5 or 6 stages.

          • I would agree with you – my main criticism of Matthews has generally been too happy to win the occasional ‘perfect for him’ stage… as opposed to the constant hunger of a Sagan or Cavendish.

          • Bit harsh Tedba… think Matthews has always contested as much as possible, but he simply hasn’t had the beating of others – whether Cav/Kit in sprints or Sag/Krist in hard sprints…

  2. Will Philippe Gilbert be a factor? He can beat Sagan and Matthews on almost all terrain, including intermediate sprints in mountain stages. I doubt if Phil will be used in the sprint train but he can surely mop up some points in flat finishes after his team mate Kittel and hence help him that way by beating some other contenders for green every now and again.

      • Not so much winning the green jersey, but taking points away from Sagan and Matthews during hilly stages, where Sagan usually wins with no other sprinter in sight. If beaten by Gilbert, Sagan will miss out on points here, and his 2nd places in flat stages might not be enough any more to keep the green jersey.

        • So excited to see Gilbert go for stage wins.

          Seeing GVA, Gilbert, Swift, Cummings all in a few breaks will be fascinating. Swift’s climbing in Dauph gives me high expectations – can see him nicking one.

  3. No mention of GVA? Not a pure sprinter but, has had the better of Sagan on a number of occasions recently. Surely as much chance as Degenkolb.

    • I can’t see it, I think he’ll prefer to stay away from the bunch sprints and save himself for breakaways like last year. Years ago he did contest bunch sprints but last year he stayed back, he might even play bodyguard for Porte.

    • My guess is he will try to go as hard as he can in the 1st ITT and then hope to take yellow by winning the Longwy finish. He will target that anyway because it is in his home country (well, it’s not Vlaanderen but at least it’s Belgium) and suited to his talents. Though Sagan and Matthews are usually faster in prologues and won’t be far off in Longwy either, there is a realistic chance for GVA to take yellow there with bonus seconds included. But green jersey? No.

  4. Will we get a repeat of some of the transition stages last year, where a lazy peloton was content to let a doomed 2-4 man break hover a few minutes in front of them for hour after featureless hour? Will the fact that all the stages are being broadcast start to finish make more of the small teams fight harder to get in the break?

    It’s annoying that the Tour is considered so important that the ratio of protected GC guys/sprinters and their dedicated domestiques to riders with a free role who will try to win from breaks etc. is so low. Guys using these flat stages as rest days so they can be fresh to defend their leader’s all-important 12th place on GC.

    I’m not arguing for a Vuelta-type situation of virtually no sprint stages, and I realise that large chunks of France are extremely flat. I also don’t think there’s a massive incentive for ASO to change things as long as the “obsessive cycling nerds watching online” demographic is outnumbered by the “French people who watch for the sunflowers and châteaux and maybe cheer on Bardet/Pinot” one.

    Maybe make the sprint stages much shorter (so attackers have more energy) or much longer (so fatigue starts to be a big issue á la Milan-San Remo.

    • I am not sure exactly what your point is to be honest…. the balance of the stage structure is always a contentious subject with many armchair fans thinking the could design a better route but remember, ASO have been doing this for a long long time and to be honest they are pretty good at it. Well, most of the time they are.

      The Stage profiles for this year are going to be very entertaining… the hillier profiles replacing the pure mountains/hill top finishes are looking very tasty indeed and anyways…. even the top GC teams will always have a rider willing to get in the break and take a stage on a transition stage.

      There is always more to meats the eye with the flat stages…. all you need is wind or rain and boom anything normal goes out the window.

      Its going be a good one… I am sure of that !!!

  5. This year’s points competition could come down to stage wins.

    Look how many pure sprinter stages there are, much more than last year. Therefore, if you place between 1-3 on each of those stages, it would be very hard for Sagan to pick up sufficient points elsewhere to compete if he has trouble sprinting against Kittel, Griepel, Cav and the other pure sprinters.

    I haven’t run the numbers yet, but this will be interesting to see how it plays out.

    • It could come down to stage wins.
      But it won’t.

      There were nine coefficient 1 stages in 2016 also; in these, Sagan took 272 x points. That’s an average of 30 x points per stage! (Or second place in them all).
      Add another 30 x points for a win on a coefficient 2 stage, and that made 302 x points.

      So the rest (168 x points) was added in TT’s or intermediate sprints. Remember last year him going in breakaways on mountain stages, for goodness sake?

      There’s simply no other rider with the strength, consistency, all-round ability and probably desire to take green off him.
      And that especially won’t happen whilst he wears the world champion stripes.

      • +1 ET. The pure sprinters tend to ease up in the final if they think they’re too far behind to win, thereby saving energy for another stage. So unless one of them wins all the flat stages, Sagan should keep green by virtue of multiple high placings: he doesn’t ease up.

    • I have to agree with Ecky Thump. Sagan’s consistency is too much for the other sprinters. The pure sprinters are going to share the points among themselves, while Sagan will be in the mix on the flat stages as well as the uphill kickers. No one else can claim that consistency.

      There are a number of scenarios in which Sagan will win the green jersey including if a different sprinter wins each of the flat stages, or if Kittel mops of 3-4 of them. He’ll still find himself on the podium more often than not, then still be in contention when Kittel and co are in the grupetto.

  6. The weighting of the points with so much importance (or increased importance) placed on the flat stages and the intermediate sprints I don’t think anyone other than Sagan can win it. If you had equal points for all stages and less weighting on the intermediate sprints then a particularly dominant GC man or a classics man who can rack up points on the hilly and medium mountain days might challenge him. But as it is he is the only man who can get 2nd/3rd/4th on flat days, win on hilly days and get to the intermediate sprints on the mountain days. Matthews might be able to take him closer than anyone has for a few years but I cant see him beating him. With the current intermediate points weighting the out and out sprinters, i.e. Kittel, Greipel, Cavendish, and the heavy strong men like Demare and Degenkolb have absolutely no chance.

    • Isn’t there also another team?

      Katusha right?

      It’s going to be a nightmare telling all apart – through in Ag2r also basically white…

  7. Degenkolb’s salary half of Bouhanni’s? Based on performance one is a bargain and one is seriously over paid. I guess it shows how much it might be international at the top tier but being local on local time attracts a premium. Would an average world class English footballer be paid twice as much as a German champion in the EPL?

    • *Kittel’s – even more skewed 😉

      Did Quickstep pay the fee for getting him out of his contract, taking the money from Kittel’s salary? Or what does “the price to pay to get out of his previous contract” mean?

    • YES!
      Raheem Sterling (Average, English player, Man City) – £180,000 per week
      Per Mertesacker (World Cup winner, German player, Arsenal) – £70,000 per week

      • This is astounding news.

        Although would be interesting to know further details – Bouhanni does actually win more than Degenklob, even if D has delivered more high profile wins… does that make his value to the team that much higher?

        Would like to hear this all weighed up – including advertising potential Bouhanni brings a French team to see if it’s not as ridiculous as it sounds…

        • Bouhanni signed for Cofidis with perfect timing. He’d just won a string of stages in the Giro and at the time the Alonso team was trying to start so there was tension in the market for a sprinter, just as Peter Sagan’s value was going to through the roof too. By contrast Kittel tore up his contract with Giant and walked out late in the season to Etixx leaving him with reduced choice but a strong sprint train waiting for him.

  8. I hope EBH’s ambitions are more than just lead-out train duties for Cav. I’d love to see him get a bit of the old zip back – who’d have thought that Tour when he won 2 stages (2011?) was probably his high point…

    • I am afraid to admit the EBH ambitions may outweigh EBH ability to get a result these days….. as much as I would love it if EBH won big again and consistently rode like he did all those years ago I just don’t think he has it in him… I really don’t.

      • Sad but possibly true.

        He may have made wrong career choices, and left Sky earlier… but who knows?

        Was the big issue distance which held him back from P-R & TdFlanders? Should that have been called earlier to focus of stages?

        Was he just unlucky Sagan came around?

        What actually went wrong with the benefit of hindsight?

      • It’s always seemed to me that EBH’s ambition is rather modest, and it’s rather other people’s ambitions for him that have outstripped his ability/desire to deliver.

    • Strong comment. Agreed.

      It’s nice to have another great INRNG article but I think we all know unless Sagan crashes this is already done and dusted.

  9. Pro Cycling Stats have Sagan as the number one ranked Sprinter in the world. According to Velon, of the eleven bunch sprints that Sagan has contested this season he has won four (the joint-highest percentage of any of his rivals) and has finished on the podium in ten. A staggering 91% of the time.

    With doubts over the form of most of his rivals, I think we’ll be talking about how many sprints Sagan has won/podiums he is on, never mind the Green Jersey.

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