Part power, part daredevil… part mental arithmetic, the Tour de France’s points competition for the green jersey could also be an interesting contest this year with Wout van Aert making it his goal but he’ll have to take on the pure sprinters and a contest skewed towards them.
Learning to Count
The pedant knows “it’s not the sprinter’s jersey, it’s the points competition” but a true pedant will know the flatter stages offer many more points:
- Stages “without particular difficulties” (Stages 2,3,4,5,6,8,13,15,19,21):
50-30-20-18-16-14-12-10-8-7-6-5-4-3 and 2 points for the first 15 riders
- “Rolling” stages (Stages 7,10,14,16):
30-25-22-19-17-15-13-11-9-7-6- 5-4-3-2 points
- “Very difficult” stages and time trials (Stages 1,4,9,11,12,17,18,21):
- Intermediate sprints:
This big weighting towards the flat stages suits the sprinters. Mark Cavendish won four stages and the green jersey last year; Wout van Aert won three stages but finished in Paris with half the points tally.
Stages 2, 3, 13, 19 and 21 look like sprint stages on paper, although 13 and 19 will tempt more breakaway riders which can make for a self-fulfilling prophecy. Stage 4 across the cliffs to Calais could be a reduced sprint if the wind blows. Stage 5 with the pavé should see the peloton split, a sprinter can still make the front group if things go their way. Stage 6 to Longwy has a sharp uphill finish; Stage 8 to Lausanne too and both offer maximum points. Stage 10 to Megève is a mid-mountain course where the intermediate sprint comes late in the day so getting in the break helps, otherwise the intermediate sprint for all the mountain stage comes early, a sprinter can either get in the early break or deploy their team to lock down the race until the sprint.
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) is making the green jersey his goal this year. He can score points on days when the pure sprinters cannot. He’s obviously a contender for the cobbled stage too but he can also win a time trial and mid mountain stage too. Such versatility is impressive, but comes with diminishing returns as even if he were to win the two time trial stages he’d collect 40 points, when one sprint stage win brings 50. Still the organisers have given him some choice opportunities, Stage 6 to Longwy offers 50 points to the winner, Stage 8 to Lausanne again. He’ll still have to dabble in the bunch sprints to score as well though. All this is before we get to team tactics, he’ll want his team to help him but he’ll also be wanted to help his team at times too and on certain days he might want help to get to an intermediate sprint on a mountain stage but the squad are focussed on helping their GC leaders. All this will be obvious to them and they’ve been planning for this but the simplest way is for him to rack up as many points between now and the first rest day so that he can then pick and chose his moments. He’s won the points jersey in Paris-Nice and the Dauphiné, dress rehearsals for the Tour.
Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step) is the best of the pure sprinters but he’ll need to win multiple stages to score big and build up a lead for the stages when he won’t be able to place. He’s here to win stages and if the green jersey comes, then he’ll think about it. This is where the calculations get complicated, as repeat wins by one sprinter will put them in green but if they stuff up a sprint or two then the contest is more open so the contest itself can come down to a timing mistake, or a crash but Jakobsen’s been clinical this season.
Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) alas took himself out of the Tour last year after overlapping his front wheel, he crashed again in the Giro which might have cost him a stage win in the Giro back in May too. Last year he was going for the intermediate sprints which suggests he’d like the green jersey too and this could be a challenge to aim for again, plus he’s handy for some uphill finishes, he could win in Longwy. Like other sprinters though he’ll really want a stage win first but this won’t be easy as he’s not got a full lead-out train from his team.
Would Dylan Groenewegen and BikeExchange-Jayco sign for one stage win if they could rub a lantern and a genie promises this? The Dutchman is a very fast finisher but hasn’t been as efficient of late, plus hasn’t won a World Tour sprint since February 2020. He’s still quite capable of a Tour stage win, but racking up multiple ones and wrapping up the green jersey is a bigger ask. Especially as the team also have Michael Matthews who has won green in the 2017 Tour but is likely to be more selective this time.
Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) has seven points classification wins and has even won green without winning a stage so while his win rate has been declining in the last couple of years, he could still aim for green. He’s had a tough season but during one stage of the Tour de Suisse he seemed to be back to his very best, surfing the wheels, carving corners and then unleashing his sprint to take a stage. His problem now is that he used to monopolise the niche of someone who could sprint but also win on hilly days, now this field is very crowded with van Aert and Van der Poel who can this too plus even score in time trials and elsewhere too. He’s an expensive signing for TotalEnergies but they’d crave just one stage win with him.
Mathieu van der Poel did talk about going for green but now he’s said to be picking his stages while Alpecin-Deceuninck (yes, a name change from July) team mate Jasper Philipsen is versatile sprinter for the bunch sprints, he’s won hilly stages of the Vuelta a España and some flat dragster finishes in the UAE Tour alike which suggests he’ll be sprinting. If so, MvdP won’t be scoring on some days, much like he did in the Giro and this can deprive us of a ding-dong MvdP vs WvA battle. Of course they’ll clash on some stages but maybe they won’t be hustling each other for every single intermediate sprint as we might have dreamed over winter. Van der Poel could still push van Aert for the points competition as he can do well in the time trials and could still leave the hectic bunch sprints to Philipsen while going for the intermediates. In turn Van der Poel’s ambitions for stage wins could dent van Aert’s points scoring which might tip things back to sprinters. Which could make for a changing competition and the first long week from Copenhagen to Morzine is going be crucial to shaping the contest.