Tour de France Green Jersey Contenders

A look at the points competition in the Tour de France, the contenders for the green jersey and a wider preview of the sprinters.

Do the maths
The pedant knows “it’s not the sprinter’s jersey, it’s the points competition”, the expert knows the flatter stages offer many more points:

  • Flat stages (Stages 2,3,4,7,8,11,18,19,21) 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 1,9,10,12,13): 30-25-22-19-17-15-13-11-9-7-6- 5-4-3-2 points
  • Mountain Stages + individual TT (Stages 5,6,14,15,16,17,20) : 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

This is why the competition suits the sprinters. However, let’s take the examples of Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish, the latter can stake a claim to be the best sprinter but he’s only won the Tour’s points jersey twice; while Sagan holds the record with seven wins including one year without winning a stage. Both illustrate the two routes to the green jersey.

First there’s the pure sprinter/”Cavendish” path to green: just win a lot of the flat stages. A win is 50 points and there’s a big premium on victory, with second place offering only 30 points and then 20 points for third. So four sprint stage wins brings 200 points, if someone else can manage to place second each time they’re on 120 points or a long way behind. So consistent victories while rivals place here and there is one route to green. Also note the intermediate sprints where there’s less of a premium on winning, a de Coubertin-style attitude of taking part helps here. There are eight possible sprint finishes in the race but that’s the upper end, take Stage 19 which is a hilly day, riders will be tired and plenty will be desperate to get in the breakaway.

The Sagan method, as deployed by Wout van Aert last year, is to place in the bunch sprints and even hope to take a win here and there, and then score on days when rivals cannot. These opportunities come in two ways, first the stages where the heavyset sprinters will be thwarted.

Stage 2 is the only “Coefficient 2” stage of the race, it labelled as a stage sans difficulté particulière but given the Jaizkibel mountain features with less than 20km to go plenty of sprinters are going to find this particularly difficult and 50 points awaits the winner. This is a crucial early rendez-vous for those who want to take on the points jersey via this route. There are not many other “Sagan stages” this year, those Goldilocks stages that are too hard for the pure sprinters but not beyond the reach of classics contenders like Sagan of old or Wout van Aert or Mads Pedersen today.

The other component here is the location of the intermediate sprint each day, and if it’s within reach of the sprinters or not. Our Sagan-style rider can get in the breakaway and treat the intermediate sprint as their finish line for the day, take Stage 13 above with the climb into the Jura mountains, a pure sprinter is likely to find this too much. The same for some of the days in the Alps where there’s a literally a mountain to climb before the intermediate sprint, a pure sprinter will think twice before trying to get in the breakaway for fear of cracking.

Of course these two routes to green overlap, our “Sagan” and “Cavendish” archetypes are illustrations. Looking at the parcours for 2023 the “Sagan” route looks harder, it’ll require making moves in the Alps to make up for lost points on the plains.

Can a GC rider win? Last year Tadej Pogačar scored 250 points to Van Aert’s haul of 480 and the Slovenian champ was third in the competition which means he came the closest for a GC rider since Stephen Roche won the Tour and finished second in the points in 1987. The last GC winner to win green too was Bernard Hinault in 1979. Rhey’ve changed the points system several times and today it really rewards the sprinters. So it’s unlikely, as good as Pogačar can be when it comes to stage wins and hustling for time bonuses, he’d need to win more stages and even go for some intermediate sprints.

The Contenders

Wout van Aert won this competition last year thanks to a very complete performance: sprinting for points throughout, a solo stage win and a time trial win. Then green was his big declared pre-race target and now he’s done it he’s not making the same noises about repeating, his goal is the World Championships in August. Now the Tour isn’t going to be a training camp, he’ll be helping Vingegaard where he can and taking opportunities elsewhere and his range suits this competition but he’s likely to back off on some days, plus he’s talked about leaving the race to join his wife for the imminent birth of their second child which means he could in theory lead the competition only to leave the race, although the due date is expected to be after the Tour in late July. At his best he can bend the whole race to his will to his will but is his form as good? Lots of questions when last year he was the easy pick. After two stage wins in the Dauphiné some in France are wondering if team mate Christophe Laporte could be a contender but it’s one thing to strike gold twice in June, another to go for green across 21 days on a team with the goal of winning overall, it’s hard to see …but if you spot Laporte going for the intermediate sprints early then we’ll know the ambition of the team.

Fabio Jakobsen (Soudal-Quickstep) might well be the fastest sprinter right now but that doesn’t mean he’ll take green as it’s the points competition, not a speed test. He’ll have to get multiple stage wins to take green, scoring big again and again over his rivals. Easier said than done at the best of times although sprinters can get into a grove in the Tour but a theme of sprinting this season is that the contests are chaotic with no one sprinter dominating. Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco-Al Ula) is another pure sprinter and he too can hope for more than one stage win. Each time one wins, the other is only left with 30 points at best, diluting each other’s bids for green. Both have to get over the mountains in a very vertical edition of the Tour.

Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) is perhaps not the fastest sprinter although he is still very quick but he can get over the climbs that some sprinters can’t and have fresher legs for the finale, he’s likely to score more often. One challenge for him going for green is his team mate Mathieu van der Poel, the pair won’t clash but there will be days when one scoring means the other doesn’t, and a team with two leaders like this dilutes their ability to harvest points. Van der Poel is still a contender as well because of his range, he can win sprints, breakaways and uphill finishes but he’s probably more interested in spectacular victories than the daily arithmetic.

Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) won his first ever bunch sprint in the Giro and he can also win on days when the pure sprinters cannot. The question is whether he keeps up a sustained challenge for green or backs off so he can save energy in order to boost his chances of a stage win from a breakaway?

Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) can sprint but is he a sprinter? On his best days he can float over smaller climbs – he was Van der Poel’s nemesis in the 2021 Giro – and also win on terrain when the pure sprinters can’t. He’s one of those “see what happens” contenders where the goal is to land a stage win first, then see what the points table looks like in his Tour debut.

Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Dstny) went into the 2021 Tour confident of stage wins and aiming for the points jersey and alas he crashed out and hasn’t looked the same since. His only win this year is the “Van Merksteijn Fences Classic” which even keen bloggers who maintain pro race calendars have barely heard of. The talent is still there but today he’d surely sign for a stage win and the team have had a setback before turning a pedal, as Aussie manager Allan Davis has been dropped on the eve of the race.

If there’s a rider who wants one stage win it’s got to be Mark Cavendish (Astana), who – in case you didn’t know – is the joint record holder for stage wins with Eddy Merckx. It’s a tall order given the competition here and his tandem with Cees Bol is untested but his win in the final stage of the Giro was so convincing. That’s almost his problem as he popped up to win when many were writing him off, Rome has now raised expectations.

Others who would just like a stage win are Jordi Meeus (Bora-hansgrohe) who isn’t a prolific winner but leadout expert Danny van Poppel can boost his odds. Alexander Kristoff (Uno-X) hasn’t won at the Tour since 2020 but he’s got a great leadout in Søren Wærenskjold although the pair are suited to big boulevards rather than technical finishes. Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain) is yet to win a grand tour stage, he’s often in the mix but again, he’d sign up today for a win. DSM’s Sam Welsford is 27 but in only his second pro season after years in the Aussie track team pursuit squad and he can pour on the watts making is an outsider for a dragstrip finish. Never say never for Bryan Coquard but he and Cofidis crave one stage win, the uphill finish in Limoges could suit and if not then maybe could try from the breakaways, likewise Corbin Strong (Israel-PremierTech), another track rider who is light but can turn on the torque.

Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) has seven points classification wins and has even won green without winning a stage so while his win rate has fallen off a cliff of late, could he still challenge? Not easy as in his prime he could win those uphill finishes that were off limits to other sprinters, but these days Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert can take these kind of finishes while Sagan can’t anymore.

Wout van Aert, Jasper Philipsen
Jakobsen, Girmay
Pedersen, Groenewegen, Kristoff


Why green? Because of la Belle Jardinière, a clothing retailer and uniform supplier that had a famous Parisian department store. The points competition was reintroduced in 1953 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Tour de France. La Belle Jardinière sponsored the race and its green branding was deployed on the jersey. It’s been green ever since but was once red in, appropriately, 1968, a summer of political riots. Long-time sponsor PMU, a state bookmaker, also used green. So does today’s patron Skoda but new for 2023 is a darker tone to match the company’s branding for its electric range.

68 thoughts on “Tour de France Green Jersey Contenders”

  1. One of the problems with predicting the green jersey is you don’t know who is all in for it. I actually don’t see anybody on the start list i see as being all in for this jersey this year as a main goal. Mostly just some keep myself in this competition sprinters who may suddenly go for it if it looks possible.

    That said if he is interested i see Biniam Girmay as my favorite.

    • Agreed, there’s often a couple of stages to see who is going for it as sprinters can sit out the intermediate sprints at first in order to get that first stage win, then once that’s banked, start hunting points. It’ll be different still this weekend and with the hilly Basque stages and then the Pyrenees rushing up.

    • Didn’t Mads Pedersen say he was going for green? I have a recollection of an interview he did – with the GCN presenter who’s his neighbour back at home -after he left the Giro and he finished it with “I’ll see you at the tour going for the green jersey”.

  2. Is it just me or is the green jersey kind of an afterthought for so many teams? Would seem to me that it would be awesome for guys like Philipsen, Van der Poel or Girmay to really push for the green.
    Why don’t teams/riders go all out for green and instead focus so much of their effort on a possible stage win?

    • It’s an upfront goal for Alpecin, the manager is saying he and Philipsen are keen on it. But as said in another reply, you tend to see riders going for a stage first and once this is banked (with the points) then they show up more often at the intermediate sprints.

  3. Does Caleb Ewan have a contract for next season?
    If he doesn’t do anything in this TdF (or at least not hurtle into others and take himself out of the race), I can’t see why Lotto would re-sign him. This season and last have not been very good.

      • Gotta say I like the jersey change as well. I wouldn’t buy anything with Trek’s name on it but I do shop at LIDL. Now they just need to have the women ride in the same kit. WTF they haven’t before makes no sense to me, but they’re not the only ones…I recognize UAE instantly in the men’s ranks while the women’s UAE kit looks way too much like way too many others.

        • Larry, I like your steep stances on a lot of things, though I rarely agree. On this one I am in full agreement with you; why the teams that have both a wo- and a men’s team don’t have the same jersey is beyond me. It should be mandatory wearing the same jersey layout albeit with a different set of advertising. It is helluva confusing when watching both.

          • I agree, but reckon it’s down to $$$ and sponsorship: the sponsors of the men’s teams might not cough up much more money to sponsor the women, so there’s probably more income in negotiating separate sponsors for the women’s teams

  4. If I could wish for one thing from this tour it would be a Bryan Coquard stage win!
    And Cavendish too. I don’t want to be greedy though.

  5. Regarding GC contenders being in contention for the green jersey. Stephen Roche finished second (and Pedro Delgado 3rd) in 1987. Roche was still in contention of the jersey on the last stage, but didn’t bother to sprint. I also see Greg Le Mond finished second in points in the 1985 tour.

    I also see 3rd place finishes in the 90s for Big Mig and Chiapucci.

  6. Does anyone knows Cav’s form? Is he capable of getting the one win which will make him immortal 🙂 I hope he gets it …. he has given us so many years of fantastic sprints…. hope he gets the last one…

    • He won the final stage of the Giro so form seems there. Tougher competition at the Tour tho. The romantic in me would love to see him win on Champs Elysees

    • He’s been keeping quiet since the Giro. Pete Kennaugh was laughing on a podcast the other day that Netflix were all over him as everyone else is at high altitude and Cavendish is conveniently at home, hanging out with local riders. I mean Cavendish is box office and they’d be mad not to cover the story, but it did imply Cav is in a fairly relaxed headspace right now. Expect him to need a few stages to ride into form, perhaps – a standard Cavendish trait.

    • During the Giro the various commentators kept saying that Cavendish does better at the Tour if he’s already got the Giro in his legs but he hasnt ridden both since 2013 so who knows

  7. I wasn’t aware of the ”la Belle Jardinière” connection so I had to look it up and sure enough there it is on the ASO website, which is strange because I was sure that the colour arose from being sponsored by a lawnmower company, which is refered to (without citation) on Wikipedia and I’m sure I remember it being discussed on here as well. Perhaps its one of those factoids that circulated online for long enough to become seen as true, or maybe the lawnmower folks took over when the Parisian department store ended sponsorship?
    Personally I’m not a fan of the new ‘bora-esque’ colour green but then Skoda have put a lot of sponsorship money in to the race so perhaps its fair, and the lime green hasn’t been forever, it was more of a mid-chartreuse green before the 80s. Somehow I think the new colour won’t last long as it is sombre and muted and therefore at odds with the competition it represents which is more about brash, exciting racing.
    Regarding Eddy Merckx, did he ever actually wear the Maillot Vert in a race? I can’t find any photos.

    • There is context for toning down of bright colours in France 🇫🇷 when the president issued a change to the blue of the national flag, making it far less bright

    • Wikipedia is a great resource but on niche subjects like cycling history it’s not got the wiki-treatment of lots of contributors. Odd ideas can take root, especially with various languages, eg the English-language page of something about French sport.

      Especially in July you see which outlets have lifted things wholesale from Wikipedia for their info about local content, historical anecdotes etc 😉

      • Thanks, sadly odd ideas taking root is Accelerating In 2023…I dug a little deeper and translated the French wiki entry into English and it seems the confusion stems from people assuming La Belle Jardiniere was a gardening equipment company, which makes complete sense:

        ”To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Tour de France, the points classification was reintroduced during the 1953 Tour de France, but this time as an additional classification. The leader of the classification receives a green jersey sponsored by the À la Belle Jardinière brand. Contrary to what the name suggests, it was not a business related to the gardening activity, which could have explained the green color. À la Belle Jardinière was actually a tailor-made clothing store that regularly used the color green to communicate. In 1968, the color of the jersey became red at the request of the new sponsor who replaced the historical sponsor of the classification, but the 1968 edition was an exception because the following year the organizers decided to return to green and no longer change it later, regardless of the sponsor.”

  8. Apart from WVA none of the names jump off the page speaking of consistency … and he is showing any interest.
    It then reduces to the least inconsistent and that might be Philipsen.

    • PCS did a nice little analysis of the current form of green jersey contenders, where Philipsen was the only rider to have top 3 placings in the last ten sprints he’s contested, which seems pretty consistent. Curious to see how MDVP plays it – will he go for the spectacular wins that then also strip points away from WVA and others, and then act as a luxury lead out for Philipsen on other days?

  9. Heard an interesting thought the other day about Cav:

    Namely that being mentioned in the same breath as Merckx (being “equal”) ennobles him, as INRNG might say.

    If he was the out-an-out all time TdF stage winner might be forgotten amongst all his other records.

    Has that thought got legs or a load of codswallop?

    • Surpassing Merckx is a good record, more than one of those curiosity stats or quiz answers.

      I quite like them tied for stage wins as means we can see them both at the top rather than ranking them.

      But it’ll be a day to remember if he does it. Even if he’d got more wins than Merckx already or was ten wins behind, a 38 year old sprinter winning after they took their first stage back in 2008 is a big story without the comparisons.

      • It is interesting and in a way beautiful that they are tied on 34 each as that is a very good entry point to discover the different aspects that make the sport so exciting and rewarding to follow, ie here are two radically different athletes who have apparently achieved the same thing, but wait! look closer etc…..

      • It’s a beautiful story either way. I believe even an out of form Cav can never be written off and could always come up with the goods all of a sudden.

        The most beautiful ending I could imagine would be for him to have a very hard tour, struggle to make the time cut, come close to winning a few times and in the end get his 35th win in Paris. Then my partner will ask me why are all the cyclists on TV crying again.

  10. Assuming he gets there it will be a sad day at the finish on the Champs Elysees and that’s it for Cav at the Tour. I first really started watching bike racing at the 2008 Tour, experiencing those crazy explosions of testosterone being won by a brash scouser got me hooked on the whole thing. Many ups and downs along the way, the masterpiece in the crosswinds into Saint-Amand-Montrond, taking yellow by the sea or the emotional comeback win in Fougères. There is a real case that he is the best all time Tour rider, it has been his race since 2008, not many riders have manged such a long period being capable of winning a stage at the Tour. I hope he can pull off the win he needs to cement his place at the top.

    • I’m a massive Cavendish fan, but no way is he the best ever Tour rider…

      But best ever pure sprinter? Very hard to make a case for anyone else anymore. He’s won in every style, he *defined* sprinting for the best part of a decade, and he’s been in the top ranks of three, maybe four, generations of sprinters. The longevity alone would mark him out, but the extraordinary images of his early speed are what will seal the deal for later generations when we try to explain what they missed.

      • Even when he isn´t, a case can be made:

        14 participations 2007-2023
        First stage victory in 2008, (not necessarily) last in 2021, 9 Tours with stage wins
        2 green jerseys

        PS A similar (but better, of course) could be made for Alejandro Valverde:
        16 participations 2002-2022
        First GC podium and stage win in 2003, last in 2019
        Seven GC podiums, 1+3+3
        4 points jerseys

      • Comparisons across the generations are hard, eg Paris-Tours used to be a big prestige win for sprinters, then the race lost its lustre and they changed the course; similar with Gent-Wevelgem which has had more climbs and gravel added and isn’t the “sprinters’ classic” any more, perhaps Cavendish could have won these at the start of his career before the changes came but otherwise he’s won all he could from Sanremo to the Worlds and so many other wins, plus the green jersey of course.

        The Tour goes via Dax, once home of André Darrigade who was seen the greatest in his time and there’s bound to be a comparison here, or at least a salute to the “Levrier des Landes”, the Hare of the Landes.

        • CIPOLLINI…one P, two L’s. Doped or not, wife-beater or not, for my money nobody ever read the final sprints better. We’d be sitting in front of the TV wondering WHEN he would launch his sprint? He’d wait until the perfect moment. I have no doubts his men were wondering the same thing, but more often than not “Super Mario” would come good.

          • Little Onions, little onions, he fuelled on pills and a dozy Yank thought he was straight because he didn’t use an earpiece but he would have done if they had been available at the time. Yawn…

          • Steve wrote: “he would have done if they had been available at the time. Yawn…”
            I agree with your last word there when it comes to woulda/coulda/shoulda. Yawn indeed.
            Super Mario’s ability to read a race didn’t come out of a syringe or bottle of pills no matter how much you might dislike him. I don’t much like the guy myself based on news reports, but what he did in sprinting was amazing to watch!
            PS-perhaps Mr. INRNG might want to enforce some civility here regarding your “dozy Yank” snark? Do we really need that?

        • Yes but look how many were in the Giro (with less competition) and how many times Cipo abandoned. He’s a far less complete GT sprinter than Cavendish

  11. I now know he comes from the Isle of Man but when I first saw him I assumed he was a scouser (given that he spent much of his teenage years in the North West of England some of that probably rubbed off). His main success has come at the Tour (yes I know Milan San Remo, Copenhagen, points jersey at the Giro & Vuelta etc) and the Tour has come to love him, the effort he has put in to get all the way to Paris and the heart he wears on his sleeve has endeared him to many. The accent might have been a challenge at first but he gets his points across. He can be a real pain to work with (which he acknowledges) but he can inspire a team.

    I agree that comparisons in any sport across generations is pretty impossible, levels of fitness, equipment, rules and what behaviour is seen as “acceptable” make comparisons very difficult. For me Cav embodies the Tour in a way few others have (not in the past 20 years anyway), no he has never won GC but is that the only measure of success? To win one Tour sprint is very hard, a career pinnacle for many to win 33 is something we are unlikely to see ever again

    • What follows only goes to show how much subjectivity shapes the experience of a bike race. I have nothing against Cav (I did back in 2009 though) but for me sprint stages and the story of the best sprinter is never more than footnote material and if he’d won a 100 stages I would still only “feel” as if it was 5 or 10 because they blend. There are many riders I would name that in my experiences have embodied the Tour in a stronger sense in the years Cav’s been active, from Contador, the Schlecks, Hushovd and Voeckler in the early days, via Wiggins, Froome and his French opposites in their best years (i.e. Bardet, Pinot) to Alaphilippe, Pogacar and perhaps even WVA these days. Its subjective and I think what does it for me is not the wins, the champagne showers or the interviews but the extended drama and the amount of time their faces – particularly their pain faces – are shown on camera, day in and day out (or at least for a whole day or two, as Hushovd in 2011), against the backdrop of French mountains.

  12. I’m surprised Pidcock isn’t there as an outsider — he can do similar to WvA and MvdP, and has better chances in the mountains. Since Ineos have no winner to back, this couldn’t be an option?

  13. What you never explain is why they’re tilted this classification in favour of the sprinters over the years. I suppose we should ask ASO and other stakeholders, but an educated and informed guess of trend’s reasons would be welcome.

  14. I think the fact that there is no clear cut fav for the Green jersey this year means we could get a really interesting and unusually close battle for it. I for one am really looking forward to this, and more generally with the Tour have 2 x clear cut favourites for the overall and no one else really close then the other jerseys and the stages themselves might perhaps be very competitive. I often find the battles and stories outside the overall more interesting but that could just be me.

    Agree that it’s impossible to compare across the ages (although good to discuss over a beer) but Rik van Looy could have a claim as the greatest sprinter (although he was more than that) ?

  15. To win the green the rider needs at least three wins and mop up some points on the road.
    WVA and MVDP won’t be going for green, so let’s see. I won’t be picking a rider for green but I am watching the battle for green as it goes along.

  16. Small correction re Darrigade’s nickname: a levrier is a greyhound, not a hare. Probably an inadvertent confusion with the very similar word for hare, lievre.

  17. This is the second time this week, that I read about Pedersen winning his first ever brunch sprint. But the fact is that he won two brunch sprints in 2020 (pologne and binck banck) beating Philipsen, Ackerman Merlier etc.

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