Tour de France Sprinters and Green Jersey Contenders

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):
    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

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.

The Route
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.

43 thoughts on “Tour de France Sprinters and Green Jersey Contenders”

  1. Not that he’d win a stage or the green jersey but is anyone else stunned Ethan Hayter isn’t there?

    I’m also heard that Carlos Rodriguez might be going to Movistar which I’m also struggling to understand, it’s a shame he’s also failed to make the Ineos roster. I just have a feeling they could have selected a stronger if more inexperienced team?

      • It’s a constant issue for riders on the team. They pay very well but opportunities in grand tours are hard to find, it’s why Dunbar is off. Ineos might still keep Rodriguez but how much do they want him and what chances can they give him versus what Movistar are prepared to pay and they’d let him draw his own calendar. Hayter needs more time, he’s only started doing World Tour races this year and while he’s quick, even if he was selected couldn’t see him going for green, see how van Aert got the better of him in the Dauphiné.

    • Great talent, but I’d be really stunned… to see him here. It would mean Ineos decided to take a year of vacations from the TDF.

      The guy *never* rode a GT and this season it was his first time tackling WT stage racing (where he proved good, but… with some very evident *but* I’ll insist on later), so – albeit obvious historical exceptions are there to be highlighted, if one wanted – I’d say he’d be essentially one man less on the roster, even more so when the boy’s got some issues in navigating a frantic peloton (this!). Having him here could even turn out to be negative for the athlete himself.

      Generally speaking, when your best card is having three leaders, you really crave for any added experienced domestic – the early talent on learning duties with a chance to strike is Pidcock. Hayter is going to get his chances when time comes.

      • I just wonder if Hayter’s issues “navigating the peloton” can be fixed. Is it just an inexperience thing? It’s really hard to say, but he looks very uncomfortable riding in big groups. I can’t think of any other reason for him to be hanging in the back of the peloton like he does. It’s just very strange, especially considering that Ineos are a team that rides at the front more often than not.

        • It’s a conundrum. You don’t become World Omnium Champion or runner up in the Olympic Madison if you don’t know how to handle riding in a frenetic bunch. He actually seems very good at working his way through the peloton, he just leaves it very late and is so often caught out in crashes. Just watch his ride in the GB Championship, one minute unclipping in the grass at the back of the field and less than a minute later storming away from everyone.

  2. Van Aert all the way.
    Jacobsen will have to win at least 3 sprints and finish top 3 in the other 2 sprint stages to get anywhere near the points WvA can hoover up along the route.
    Ewan doesn’t seem in form and is missing most of his usual lead outs. Pedersen and Van der Poel don’t seen interested. Matthews has to share his team with Groenewegen and vice versa. Philipsen is here to ride for MvP. Sagan has had one proper result since the Giro of 2021. Kristoff usually gets dropped to early. And the rest are too small fish.

    • See how Jumbo-Visma were getting leaned on to chase down breakaways towards stage ends in the Dauphine though.
      Now it could be that other teams with similar ambitions to WvA may help out but, then again, maybe they won’t.
      I feel that there’s a potentially spicy mix of lumpy stages / finishes with a dash of riders who can think out of the box – Sagan, Matthews, MvdP, even Pogacar – and this can make the dual goals of GC and Green very difficult for the Dutch Team.
      Sagan, and Matthews, had to win their Green jerseys the hard way and without too much help.
      If Jumbo-Visma are prepared to let WvA off team duties, then fine.
      But think how action-packed each day of the Dauphine was and ask yourself how something like that x 3 can mess Jumbo-Visma up if they want van Aert to do the full English (or Belgian in his case 😀)?

    • yes, except your own arguments highlight that jacobsen could well dominate the sprints as the other contenders all have issues. the points race tends to be decided based on whether there is a dominant sprinter who in turn dominates green, or sprints get shared around and someone who can pick up points elsewhere gets green

      • There have been multiple times in recent years where a sprinter was clearly dominant and won multiple stages but couldn’t take green. It’s happened to both Cavendish and Kittel from memory.

  3. Basically agree with all of this except that there is doubt about Van Aert’s knee.
    From a parochial point of view I would like to see Matthews doing lead outs for Groenewegen who can be extremely fast if in position.

  4. No CAV which is a shame after a stunning ride in the GB Naytional Championships. He always provides some excitement and a stage win. There are several ideas as to why he has not been selected. I doubt he will be with Quick Step next year.
    INEOS. If it’s true about Rodriguez, it will be a great shame. INEOS appear to have taken their eye of the ball since Brailsfords departure.

    • I suspect Rodriguez probably being off is more about Movistar’s needs than INEOS not rating him. They’ve had him since he was a teenager so he’s developing nicely but d’Occitanie proved he’s not going to win a GT any time soon. I assume Movistar see him as their next GT leader after Mas, whereas, at INEOS, he’d have to bide his time for longer

      • Yeah, I think they’re pretty desperate to replace Valverde with a good Spaniard. I think it would be a good move for Rodriguez too, he will certainly get more opportunities at Movistar. He just needs to be able to put up with the craziness!

    • I loved the Nats attitude and although I’d personally prefer if Cav doesn’t make the record – just as it was a shame Cipollini taking over Binda’s -, I’d find it exciting to have him at the TDF if only to lose ^__^ – I still hope for some crazy last moment move by Lefevere (until when is that possible? 😛 )
      Cav *always* providing “a stage win” is true… barring when he doesn’t at all, at the TDF or anywhere else – like 2017… 2018… 2019… 2020…

      That said, Cav’s obviously looking better than during all those seasons, the QS magic is still working for him – but that’s also why the team has even more right to make decisions, they really salvaged him (and got their corresponding marketing reward, of course!); he can go the way Bennett or Viviani did anytime he pleases – he’s much better than them, sure, but thanks to QS they also happened to be for a season or two “the best sprinter in the world” (which Cav currently isn’t, despite now finally being the best in history!).

      All in all, I think I agree with you about other possible reasons concerning such a decision, even more so because QS’s got a team focussed on random stage victories where Cav could fit perfectly without any special sacrifice, they probably could even build up two parallel trains ^___^

      Re: Carlos Rodríguez, I’d insist on what I commented above about Hayter, although on a while different level. Carlos Rodríguez is surely *way* readier and more fitting for a TDF than E. Hayter now, despite being a touch younger: it’s the third year in row he’s riding serious WT stage races, plus other which aren’t WT but whose level is comparable. Last year he was already getting some lower-level (not that low, either) GC top-10 at Tour of Britain or Andalucía, this season he’s grown steadily further. Yet, it’s not the best to have your first GT experience in such a crowded and busy team. Maybe he could do even better than Castroviejo, and surely so in terms of potential… but it’s less of a guarantee in terms of having a minimum level of safe performance on a variety of terrains.

      And the risk is spoiling the athlete’s growth.
      But this always is the ol’ debate with such an early talent, and sometimes it really works to have them thrown in high waters directly…

  5. I don’t think Groenewegen will reach Paris, and if he does reach to Paris I think he has lost the fight for green on hilly stages. That could also be the situation for Jakobsen, without el Tractor and a possible OTL.
    I’m a bit curious about the strenght of the small fishes. Would van Poppel have the chance to sprint on every sprint stage (I guess he will) and what about Dainese, Coquard & Hofstetter, multiple 5 till 10 places on different sprints (hills & flat?)

      • Pedersen should be all over the first week but he sort of falls between two or even three stools, he’ll be close in the TT, should get beaten by the pure sprinters on Stages 2-3, then the uphill finishes might be too much even though he’s surprisingly good at shorter climbs. Pidcock is probably going to pick his stages rather than try every day, no?

        • I don’t disagree with your assessment of both riders, indeed I think Pidcock will be more about getting one win and then see what comes next. But Pedersen I think could be a real contender, he has the opportunity, even more than most others, to make a real project out of it. Trek doesn’t really have a GC-hopeful to protect and fields a strong team. Certainly if he manages to snatch a win in the first week (which is in true cycling-defies-reality fashion of course ten days) he will have the liberty to snatch points on every occasion possible, and he’ll get plenty given his endurance and speed. This contrary to pure sprinters who might want to save their legs for the few bunch sprint occasions and also contrary to WvA who may end up being called for body-guard duty anyway. It’s all speculative of course but if we consider WvA hors categorie I believe Pedersen has as much chance to green than Jakopsen or Philipsen, but the way of getting there is different of course.

          • You sound convinced for Pedersen. We’ll see, it’s also dependent on who scores, eg if one sprinter can win multiple stages or whether Jakobsen, Ewan and Groenewegen share the wins and so the points. Trek-Segafredo would definitely like the points jersey, even a spell in it… that helps but the long range forecast for hot weather in France won’t.

    • That’s true, I had not considered him. It would be a big ask when the team (at least initially) would be focused on the GC but maybe if those hopes fade in the alps the team would switch focus to another prize. Plenty of points to collect in the second part of the race.

  6. It is a little odd that neither of the previous green jersey winners have been selected for the race, though difficult to argue for either over those chosen (there is an emotional regret of no chance for Cav to go for number 35). This really is a sprinter unfriendly route, no “transitional” stages bowling through the French countryside towards a high octane shoot out on a wide boulevard (yes stage 19 but by then the sprinters teams are often too tired to chase). I have an inclination that Caleb Ewan will pick up more of the “sprint” stages than others but cant see how that leads to green. WvA has a habit of winning when he wants too but I do wonder if the team & rider have too many goals. Targeting green really needs focus (see previous two years) and perhaps Jumbo have bigger fish to fry, though the lack of serious competition for the jersey might mean it will go to WvA almost by default.

    • I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that Matthew’s will be going for green. His form is exceptional , he’s competed all season on most terrain and even in the high mountains (Dauphine) he was going off in the break to pick up intermediate sprints .

  7. I just can’t see Ewan winning in Longwy. The Longwy approach is quite different from last time with almost 20 tricky kms on narrow roads along the Chiers valley before the 12% wall from Réhon, again on a narrow wooded road. The final climb is easier and mostly on wider roads but who will have survived the earlier difficulties to remain in contention. One for Wellens, Mathews, WVA, or even Pidcock if he had support to place and was free from other duties.

  8. Surprised the sponsors aren’t putting more pressure on QS to send Cavendish as I would have thought one more win for Cavendish would have provided a photo for the sponsors that will last years, not just a day or two.

    • I have my fingers and toes crossed that announcing Cav isn’t going to the tour is just another one of Lefavere’s ‘free’ marketing stunts to generate as much headlines and interest as possible before a last minute call up.
      He’s clearly in the best shape he has been in for ages – looking hungry and keen.

    • Aren’t the sponsors, like the current record holder, Belgian? Perhaps that might be a rather unpopular photo in that particular country.

      • Merckx has so many records that there’s no need for some kind of national conspiracy to prevent things.

        Personally I like Cavendish being tied for stages with Merckx as it saves us from comparisons, both have done well in their eras but shouldn’t be compared. Cavendish though is racing on, it’s a headscratcher to know where he’ll go next year, but in signing with another team starting the Tour in 2023 is surely going to be a big, almost singular goal.

        • Not suggesting a national conspiracy, just that for Quickstep and most of the team’s secondary sponsors there isn’t really a sales bump to be expected from Cavendish eclipsing Merckx in the Tour, and there could even be some sideways looks in the cycling press.

    • Jakobsen’s story is more compelling to the Belgian and Dutch press than Cav’s, on top of that nobody here really wants Cav to deprive Merckx of his record.

      • A run of the mill cyclist recovering from a crash is a more compelling story than (arguably) the greatest sprinter of all time (or anyone for that matter) going for the record of the most stage wins in Tour history? I doubt that very much. Jakobsen winning 5 stages won’t get as much sponsor exposure as Cavendish winning 1. Or Alaphilippe just being there.

        • To write Jakobsen off as run of the mill, and just someone “recovering from a crash” suggests you have a profound bias. My sense is that Cavendish isn’t especially popular in Belgium, while Jakobsen and his incredible comeback very much is. And QS is popular for winning lots of races. A single stage by Cavendish would be seen, I think, as a failure by a QS team that should be able to win multiple stages. Jakobsen is clearly the faster and more consistent sprinter right now.

          • I have no bias against Jakobsen. I met him recently and he was a nice bloke who took time to have his photo taken with me and my mates when he could’ve ignored us. He’s a good sprinter but as good as a lot of sprinters have been and will be. Now that he is doing the race I wish him all the best, but I think they should’ve taken Cavendish.

  9. Nice preview, esp. the ending, which really make sense, imho. This competition must be particularly hard to predict (which sprinter would win several stages, if any?) , which is quite a change from all those Sagan years…

    If J-V manages to get WvA into green and still remains competitive against Pogacar, than chapeaux. I almost expect Vingegaard to match Pogacar, if not win outright (and expect Roglic to fail, which will hurt, because he seems to be quite a gentleman); but still, it should be pretty hard for van Aert to assist his team’s GC bid while remaining competitive.

    I see those intermediates tend to come pretty early this time, so that certainly may mitigate WvA’s disadvantage – he can claim the intermediate and than help his team. Concerning that – wouldn’t this move (early intermediate sprints) prove counterproductive by complicating break forming moves for early parts of those stages?

    • If the first hour is regularly more frenetic, with potential breaks bring hunted down before a sprint after 50 kms, then that makes good TV. Is this an early unforeseen consequence of televising the whole stage, which only began a few years ago?
      (Or, more pedantically, it’s just a consequence and what’s unforeseen is the effect it will have on the green jersey competition.)

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