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Tour de France Points Competition Contenders

Here’s a closer look at the Tour de France’s points competition and the contenders for the green jersey. Peter Sagan’s owned this competition for years now and he’s hard to see past when it comes to winning again. This blog doesn’t need to hype up rivals to sell the contest but we can still explore the points, route and rivals because there are a few subtle changes this year.

The Points scale: Points are awarded at the finish line and at one intermediate sprint point per stage. The points vary according to the stage to tilt the competition to the sprinters, yes it’s strictly the speaking the points competition but the sprinters’ jersey is a reasonable and deliberate label:

  • Flat stages (Stages 1,4,7,11,16, 17 & 21) 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 (Stages 3,5,8,9,10 & 12): 30-25-22-19-17-15-13-11-9-7-6- 5-4-3-2 points
  • Mountain Stages + individual TT (Stages 6,13,14,15,18,19 & 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 Route: if the scale is the same as the last year, the difference is the route this year with more “Sagan” stages with hills in the finale to disrupt the pure sprinters. Arguably only five stages offer a finale without a hurdle of sorts for the sprinters. So it’s advantage Sagan here because if there’s a hill he’ll be fine. Also the mountains come with the same tight time limits as last year too where several sprinters were eliminated.

That said, there’s been a tweak to the design as the intermediate sprint each day seem to have been carefully placed, especially on the mountain stages where most come early in the stage, often very early like the example above from Stage 20 shows. This means a pure sprinter should still be present to contest them. Often they’ve come mid-stage in the mountains allowing Sagan, and others in the past like Thor Hushovd, to distance the pure sprinters on the climbs and score at the intermediate point. But for 2019 this part of the route design leaves a door open to the pure sprinters to score points but still, how many sprinters fancy a big effort just before tackling a mountain pass, to start their day in the red?

Now to the contenders. Peter Sagan has won the points competition six times and if he can win this time he’ll set the absolute record, surpassing Erik Zabel. In seven starts he’s won six times and the only time he didn’t make it was down to the commissaires, not his rivals. He’s had a quiet season so far but we saw vintage Sagan in the recent Tour de Suisse where he was sprinting with the best suggesting the speed is there and bumping rivals off their leadout trains which shows the authority and confidence is too. Bora-Hansgrohe have ambitions with Max Schachmann and Emanuel Buchman too but bring seasoned support riders like Daniel Oss and Marcus Burghardt.

If the pure sprinters find the route awkward, the points scale is still in their favour. For example if Sagan finishes 3rd and 5th in two bunch sprints while a someone else is on a winning streak then they’re going to score points a plenty. Here Caleb Ewan could be the most versatile option because he’s excellent in a dragstrip finish thanks to that aero position but he’s also handy in an uphill run and can cope with a climb or two. But again if Ewan is to score more than Sagan he’ll have to target the green jersey early, hustling for the intermediate sprints rather than just aiming for stage wins and seeing what comes as a result once he’s bagged a stage or two.

Dylan Groenewegen can cope with a climb too but is probably not as versatile as Ewan, instead he’s more suited to winning the pure sprint stages and, excepting the Eneco Tour, he’s won a stage in every stage race he’s done for the best part of two years now. However when he was beaten by Ewan in the ZLM Tour last week he seemed to spend minutes stretching his back. Hopefully it was just a long day in the saddle and the agony of defeat and he’s fine now. He’ll share a Jumbo-Visma team with GC ambitions but this worked out fine before. Again if he gets a winning streak – and these things happen, see Kittel, Cavendish, Greipel in recent years – then he can rack up points.

Michael Matthews has won the competition before, in the year when Sagan was disqualified from the race and then when Marcel Kittlel fell ill in the Alps. Still “to finish first, first finish” and the Australian can float over climbs that others will grind up, Sunweb could even make a point of putting the hurt on just to eliminate sprinters. Indeed he is versatile to the point of bemoaning he’d been working hard to become a valuable helper for Tom Dumoulin at Sunweb rather than sharpening his sprint. But he’s had time to practice sprinting again, maybe enough to win from a smaller group rather than a bunch sprint though. If Sagan doesn’t make it then he could again inherit the jersey.

Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quickstep) is a good pick to win the opening stage but can he keep winning and then stay in the race across the mountains? His Giro didn’t go to plan but now he gets his preferred leadout of Michael Mørkøv and Max Richeze and if has a track background he can handle 5-10 minute climbs well. It’s possible to imagine team mate Julian Alaphilippe winning mid-mountain and high mountain stages alike and racking up points this way but he’s limited here as if he took mountain stages he’d only collect 40 points, still 10 short of one flat stage.

Among the others Alexander Kristoff (UAE Emirates) surely starts aiming to win a stage win and could forgo the intermediate sprints in this goal… but was second to Sagan last year, but hundreds of points behind. Once upon a time Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) would have been a contender but he’s an infrequent winner these days which means his chances are reduced. Greg van Avermaet (CCC) is after a stage and consistent across a lot of terrains but unlikely to score high in the set-piece bunch sprints.

Lastly there’s Wout van Aert who on paper can probably do most of what Sagan does. After all he’s good on short climbs and won a bunch sprint in the Critérium Dauphiné last month. Jumbo-Visma may give him carte blanche for some days but it’s hard to see van Aert challenging for green on a team that already has to juggle the ambitions of Groenewegen and Kruijswijk and making it to Paris and learning along the way is a legitimate goal even if his talent is capable of plenty more.

Peter Sagan
Michael Matthews, Caleb Ewan, Dylan Groenewegen
Elia Viviani, Wout van Aert


Comment: it’s hard to see past Peter Sagan as he’s won this competition by a large margin every year, often with 100 points, sometimes 200 which means he’s stages ahead. But nothing is certain across three weeks of racing, a hard crash down the Col de Val Louron last year almost saw him leave and despite his handling skills is not immune to accidents and misfortune. His biggest challenge will come if a sprinter like Groenewegen, Ewan or Viviani enjoys a winning streak and amasses 50 points after 50 points… but this should only make Sagan react by going on more raids in the mountains… which will incite the sprinters to contest the intermediate sprints which seemed placed to suit them. Hopefully there’s a closer contest and without the likes of Marcel Kittel, Fernando Gaviria, Mark Cavendish and more, the sprints are a little less royale so Ewan, Viviani and Groenewegen should score plenty as there are fewer rivals to dilute their chances.

Why green? Because it was the corporate tone of Belle Jardinière, a Parisian department store and the original competition sponsor. It was once red in 1960s but has been green ever since and is sponsored by auto manufacturer Skoda, whose branding today includes green.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • J Evnas Tuesday, 2 July 2019, 4:59 pm

    The biggest risk to Sagan winning this – especially considering the dearth of sprinters and Michael Matthews apparently training as a domestique (unless it’s a bluff) – is Sagan, as his sprinting is decidedly pinball-esque at times. (Ironically, the one time he was ejected from the TdF he hadn’t done anything wrong – should have been DQ’d on the day, at worst.) I suspect few if any others will even contest it – they’ll probably make cursory efforts in the intermediate sprints just in case Sagan drops out.
    Speaking of pinball-esque sprinting, it’s a shame Cavendish isn’t going. I’d have taken him if he himself thought it was worth a shot. Look at the rest of their team: I can’t see any of them doing much other than Valgren. Hard to see how Steve Cummings was chosen over Cavendish: is he fit? Because he isn’t finishing races. Cavendish should probably have total rest for many months – but with an illness like that there’s just no way of knowing how you can get rid of it.

    • Anonymous Tuesday, 2 July 2019, 5:18 pm

      Sagan didn’t do anything wrong but he should have been disqualified. There’s irony for you.

    • gabriele Tuesday, 2 July 2019, 5:37 pm

      Cavendish questions aside (I believe he’s been over for years, now, even despite his huge winning streak in DD’s *magical* Brit year, speaking of Cummings – but OTOH Cav had well earned before all the sporting rights to do whatever he pleases, retiring or hanging on)…

      …I’d say that leaving sprinters home or not betting on them is being a common theme among teams, this year, especially pure sprinters. Maybe they’re observing that the break are getting to the finish quite often, partly as a consequence of slo-ride control by Sky and peloton politics. And fewer riders for team makes it harder than before to bring the break back, especially once the sprinting pecking order gest defined. Which makes it even more expensive to bring it all together for a sprint, where you might also have lost along the way your options to build a consistent train. Fewer teams with qualified sprinters feeedbacks on the general phenomenon.
      I’m afraid we’ll get an even neater division of labour among teams, with subgroups of three or four teams focusing on specific kinds of stages/objectives and more or less overlooking the rest, thus reducing both the level of competition and the complexity of it. Of course, it’s just natural in a GT and it’s always been happening, but the question is – to what extent?

      • Anonymous Tuesday, 2 July 2019, 6:09 pm

        Ahh yes, quite rightly more loathing of British success in cycling. Just pausing myself for a moment to think how awful it is that Cavendish won any races at all, and reflecting that he must be a cheat. No disdain for Indurain, his drugs use was valiant.

        Back to the topic – don’t people like successful breaks? Isn’t this every bit as entertaining, and arguably a great compliment to, the hours long stages with little action where breaks are closed with a healthy margin before three minutes of excitement at the close?

        • gabriele Tuesday, 2 July 2019, 7:54 pm

          What do people like? Who knows. Some people like actual competition, others prefer scripted shows.
          Cycling always tended to place itself in-between in a quite effective way (never neglecting a pinch of both), but when the balance falls more heavily on the latter, alas, some disturbing side-effects surface from time to time, and that’s ultimately less appreciated by most if not everybody.

          (by the way, among such side effects you can find internet comments like the one I’m hereby bothering to answer)

      • Richard S Tuesday, 2 July 2019, 7:58 pm

        Where has this innuendo surrounding Cummings come from? I’ve seen a couple of comments on CN which I just dismissed as mindless Brit bashing, but now this on a much more respectable forum from a regular poster. I wouldn’t have thought he was successful enough to warrant suspicion.

        • gabriele Tuesday, 2 July 2019, 11:54 pm

          Nah, just context for Cav’s late exploit. Don’t read too much into that.

          Both DD Team…
          (up to now, more than half of their total WT wins *ever* were obtained during that single season!)
          …and British riders…
          (2016 being the best seasonal result ever for GB in several point rankings – for example the best PCS has recorded since the year 2000 – beating by a good margin the already notable 2012)
          …were overperforming that year, whatever the reasons – mutual support, growing morale, spot-on training routines, Olympic year, as I said, whatever.

          As for Cummings, he looks like an athlete who consistently lacks consistency through time, hence it’s hard to tell whether we should make assumptions about his sudden jumps and sinks in performance, however impressive (and it’s more about the how than the what).
          I’d say we don’t need at all to do so. To be more explicit, doping is generally a cheap explainer – and a poor one more often than not – so why bother mulling over single cases.
          I named him only because he had a part in the recent facts to which J Evnas was referring to, and he was also a significant part of that very special year (ok, let’s also avoid asterisks!, I like ’em, but they’ve been bringing along an excess of meaning).

          I’m not that much interested in the background reasons, rather in the historical interpretation. As I said long before today, Cav was over as a top of the top sprinter after 2013, which is quite logical – he’d been competitive at the highest level before turning 22 and had been absolutely dominant for some six seasons or so. The rest was a nice sunset boulevard and that Indian summer which briefly cast a different light over the previous couple of years, making people believe that *those* were the exception and that Cav was going back to norm. Well, now we’ve got more perspective – and the context was really part of such a perspective since then.

          That said, and I’ve been writing about this before, too, we’re speaking of the best pure sprinter in history along with Cipollini. In my personal Hall of Fame, I’d still rank higher some less specialised sprinters (Van Steenberger, Van Looy, Freddy Maertens… and probably also some less starry figures like Poblet or Zabel and others), but if we restrict the field to “pure sprinting”, Cav’s probably the best ever, sharing that little precious pedestal with Supermario. As such, he’s beyond criticism – which is what I mean saying that he can do as he pleases without changing his long term value.

          PS Nationalism and an obsession with doping, as well as attributing the same to the rest of the world, are the measles of the cycling fans. And the infantile phase is a beautiful one, my word, – yet, it’s got to pass, sooner or later, or at least I vividly hope so.

          • J Evnas Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 7:57 am

            Gabriele – Nice reply and, for what it’s worth, I didn’t read any doping innuendo in your original comment – I just thought it was your penchant for using asterisks.
            Richard S – I’m surprised people would make insinuations about Cummings (although I really shouldn’t be – that happens the moment an individual or team is successful) as, generally speaking, doping brings greater consistency of form, which he very very much does not have.

          • Richard S Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 1:51 pm

            Oh right, I’ve just re read J Evnas’ original post, hadn’t realised he mention Cummings. My bad.

            Re Cavendish, I agree that he has been past his peak for some time now. He will go down as an early bloomer. But what a bloom it was, as you say he is an all time great. The Champs Elysees sprint where he comes from off camera and blasts past Hushovd and his long sprint pursuit of Haussler at Milano-Sanremo in particular are two of the most spectacular and impressive things I have ever seen in cycling.

    • KevinK Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 8:56 am

      Sagan is one of the least “pinball-esque” sprinters out there from the scores of finishes I’ve watched. Yes, he surfs wheels, but one of his advantages is that he flows through the chaos like no one else, rarely making abrupt and dangerous changes to his line. For example, in the Tour de Suisse Degenkolb complained bitterly about Sagan, when the overhead replay shows that it was Degenkolb who was jerking left and right and not holding the wheel of his leadout man. Just this year there have been numerous other sprint finishes where sprinters have made dangerous and unnecessary moves, sometimes causing crashes, sometimes getting relegated, but usually getting away with it. I can’t remember any where Sagan did anything questionable. Even more obvious, there is a certain team’s leadout riders who are known for pulling their leader forward, and then pulling off in ways that abruptly threaten other sprinters.

      I’m coming to the conclusion that Matthews isn’t great at handling expectations, and his issue with TD not riding the TdF isn’t that he trained as a domestique (really, does anyone buy that?), is that now all eyes are on him. And DD did Cavendish a favor not sending him. Given his legacy, it’s embarrassing to see him in top level races and not finishing as high as his nominal lead out rider.

      • J Evans Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 10:26 am

        DQS’ leadout riders do behave disgracefully at times: by now something should have been done about it – Sabatini is particularly guilty of this

        • plurien Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 10:48 am

          Perhaps the helicopter doing the overhead could lift the lead-out rider out of the way? /s
          Lead-outs should go off at the funnel where the cars get taken out, leaving the sprinters lined across the road for a drag race//ss

          Yes it can look bad to see lead-out riders holding their shoulders and bars tightly as the sprinters swarm around, but really where else are they meant to go once they’ve exceeded their limit in doing their job? It’s not as if those who must come around aren’t expecting this.

          • KevinK Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 5:59 pm

            You’re right, obviously, that it’s a crazy system where spent leadout riders become high-speed obstacles at the crucial part of the sprint. It’s also true that inevitably any sprinters will have times where they rub shoulders or hips with other sprinters, or cut them off without meaning to. But that said, there are those who manage to either lead out or sprint relatively safely, and there are those who get in over their head and can’t seem to fully control their bikes at crucial moments. And then there’s a third group that isn’t above putting other riders in danger to help themselves or there teammates. What are you going to do about that? Have race officials do their jobs as best they can, with as much consistency as they can.

  • Richard S Tuesday, 2 July 2019, 5:57 pm

    The easiest way to stop Sagan winning this every year for eternity is to scrap the masses of points for intermediate sprints and give equal points for all stage finishes. Then he could be challenged by Alaphilippe or some other mountain point chasing escape artist, or more likely by the top GC man. When they used to give equal points for each stage on the Vuelta and the Giro the points jersey was often won by punchy GC riders like Valverde and Di Luca (no jokes). Before that the Tour points jersey was won by multi stage winning dominant GC guys like Hinault and Merckx (who probably would’ve won regardless of the rules).

    • J Evnas Tuesday, 2 July 2019, 6:01 pm

      Agreed. Sagan would probably still be the favourite – and there’s nothing wrong with that, whereas I don’t agree with the almost annual changes of the rules to try to hamper him – but it would be more of a contest.

      • DaveRides Tuesday, 2 July 2019, 7:27 pm

        The attempts to regulate Sagan out of contention are the biggest sign of respect the race can offer him!

        I think the current format is decent, as it does give a fair shot to a variety of different riders. The best proof of this is in what happened inn the 2017 Tour after Sagan was eliminated by the Cookson-gate hit job. Marcel Kittel (a pure sprinter) dominated the points competition until he crashed out early on stage 17, but the total he had amassed from only 16 stages was so great that Michael Matthews (an all-rounder, a Diet Sagan you could say) could not overtake it despite having five extra stages where Kittel was not contesting it.

        I would say that this points towards the race route having more of a say than the points format.

      • StevhanTI Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 10:55 am

        This sort of tinkering is as much part of le tour as the maillot jaune. It’s a private party after all, you’re welcome to enjoy it, on ASO’s rules…

    • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 12:02 am

      The likes of Merckx and Hinault have won the points competition too but they’re the only two overall winners to have won it, otherwise it is normally for the sprinters… and both Hinault and Merckx could win a bunch sprint in their pomp.

  • Ecky Thump Tuesday, 2 July 2019, 9:03 pm

    I’m glad you didn’t overlook van Aert this time Inrng 😀
    I’d love to see him contest the Green Jersey.
    However, perhaps he’ll be on Sagan watch on the tougher intermediates, look to pinch points away from the Slovak?
    It’s virtually impossible to ultimately see past Sagan though, the Green Knight.

  • gabriele Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 12:10 am

    Let me quote our host’s twitter line about the sprinting field, prompted by Cav’s exclusion…

    “One of several star sprinters who’ll watch from the sofa, the sprints won’t be so ‘royale’ this year”

    Since I’m the sort of spectator who tries to watch anyway, I’m hoping for some excitement, indeed, which doesn’t need great names but great racing; and if we get some *unexpected* successful break, even more so.
    Yet, the Tour’s been really tilting its course approach and racing style through recent years – the effects on the field are becoming apparent, no matter how vivid the hype.
    Now, the *field* isn’t the *race*, not at all, but, sometimes, the latter might be affected by the former.

  • J Evnas Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 10:56 am

    I’ve seen DQS riders look back and swerve in the path of rivals to their sprinters – look out for it. I love how DQS ride generally – they’re tactically very smart, but I think this goes too far.

    • J Evnas Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 10:56 am

      This was in response to plurien

      • plurien Thursday, 4 July 2019, 11:12 am

        There’s nothing to prevent these other sprinters avoiding this problem by coming around sooner…
        Face it, there is a price to be paid for exploiting other teams’ lead-outs. We saw Sagan bossing a lead-out in Suisse but mostly they have to be content with sitting in until the final burst because it’s their only option. Some teams may do a tactical peel which they are free to do by being in front but it’s less worse than bullying into a line from behind.

        I just hope all the riders have fun 😉

  • jc Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 10:57 am

    A Tour without Cav on the start line will not be the same. All good things come to an end and it is difficult to see him being back. One of the great TdF careers, from the highs of the stage in the cross winds into Saint-Amand-Montrond or being lead out to victory by the yellow jersey on the Champs Elysee to the low of ending up in a heap with a broken shoulder in Harrogate. Maybe there will be one last hurrah but it seems unlikely.

    As to this year’s green jersey, yes Peter Sagan is favourite though he hasnt been at his best this year. Not sure the field was the strongest at the Tour du Suisse though he did look in better nick than earlier in the season. I agree it is probably going to be a learning experience for Wout van Aert but he could surprise on a stage or two.

  • R Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 1:10 pm

    Will the earlier intermediate sprints on hilly days have any effect? I would assume that these days are the ones that dozens of escape artists have pencilled in the road book and there will be a fierce opening to the race to get into the break. Would this not exacerbate the ave speed at the start of races if some teams are trying (in vain?) to keep things together for an intermediate sprint?

    I find it hard to believe a DS would get a sprinter + train to work that hard at the start of a day they would already be dreading.

    • DaveRides Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 4:12 pm

      I think we will see sprint teams go for putting the sprinter and a couple of teammates in a large break on those days rather than trying to prevent a break going away.

      This would be good news for breakaway artists trying to target those stage wins, as they will get a free ride following the sprinters for the first hour.

      I imagine that the strategy of going with the break rather than trying to prevent one forming will be good news for sprinters concerned about the time limit, as it means they will get a head start on the GC group before they start shipping time on the climbs.

  • motormouth Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 3:40 pm

    why the tighter time limits for the race, what is the reasoning behind this?

    • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 3:54 pm

      Good question and to answer I went to check the tables over the years… and it turns out that people saying “the time cut is tighter” is actually a myth, it’s broadly the same and in a couple of schedules, it’s been relaxed a little. The problem for the sprinters seems more the speed of the stages and the intensity, and last year the heat was also an issue in the Alps.

      • Motormouth Thursday, 4 July 2019, 7:30 pm

        Interesting! I constantly read commentary from riders that the speeds are so much faster than before. I wonder how length of stage also impacts the real-world impact of the time cut.

  • Raymond Thursday, 4 July 2019, 9:15 pm

    What happened to stage 2 in the point scale section? 😉

    • Rooto Thursday, 4 July 2019, 10:17 pm

      Can’t quite read whether your emoji means that your question is a joke or not. In case it’s not, the answer is “because it’s a team time trial”.
      If it was, then I’ll whoosh myself…

      • Raymond Thursday, 4 July 2019, 11:50 pm

        It was not a joke. I feel stupid now haha! Thanks for clarifying

  • SLO_cyclist Friday, 5 July 2019, 11:33 am

    They finally decided to place the sprints before the first serious climb of the stage instead of in the valley between two climbs, which didn’t make any sense at all in the past. And it also makes the stage more interesting also at the beginning.