The green jersey is arguably the third competition in terms of importance in this year’s Tour de France, being behind, of course, the yellow jersey, but given this year celebrates the 40th anniversary of the King of the Mountains Polka-Dot Jersey, it slips behind that, no thanks to the fact that it has also not exactly been the closest competition in recent years. Peter Sagan has won three on the trot, and after the previous 10 competitions had been decided by an average of 30 points between 1st and 2nd, Sagan managed margins of 141, 97 and 149, for an average of an 129 point winning margin.
The Points competition has been a troublesome endeavour for the Tour recently, as it’s unofficial status as the competition for sprinters means they have been keen to tip the balance towards them. The problem is that, by its very nature, a points competition rewards consistency rather than the number of wins, as this handy table shows.
Basically, it just shows that only in one third of the last 12 Tours has the sprinter with the most wins won the Green jersey competition. Famously, the organisers decided in 2011 that the system needed to be changed to reward the most winning sprinters, hence, the change in the points system that so aptly rewarded Mark Cavendish, who had managed to win 5 stages in the previous three Tours without winning it.
The points competition has however taken on a new structure for 2015, probably due to the fact that in 2014 Peter Sagan won by 149 points, yet took no sprint wins and managed to take 153 points at the intermediate sprints along the way. In other words, winning stages wasn’t being rewarded, so the new system is designed to give stage winners a suitable winning margin.
Whilst in pre 2011 sprints, the second placed rider only lost 5 points to the winner, in 2011-2014 they lost 10. Now they’ll lose 20 – the same as can be gained from an intermediate sprint. The danger, of course, is that a dominant sprinter could simply carve out a massive margin and make the competition quite dull. However, with only four stages classified as flat in 2015 (the cobbled stage is as well, but comes under the “medium” points classification), this is unlikely.
Speaking of the “medium”, as the Tour deems them, stages, they will follow the same structure as in 2011, which is only slightly adjusted from the pre-2011 structure anyway.
Mountain stages have all stayed the same bar 5th place, which had a minor change from 12 to 11 points for 5th place after 2011.
Time trials have actually been given more points after 2011, which is novel, given there’s barely any in this years Tour.
It is the intermediate sprint that has had the biggest overhaul over the years. Previously, there were two or three intermediates with just 3 point scoring positions. Now, 15th place scores points, and the 20 you get for a win is quite a prize. In 2015 though, their impact should be lessened to an extent, as coming second on a stage and winning the intermediate would only put you on the same points as a flat stage winner who didn’t contest the intermediate.
Does this mean the “Pure” Sprinters are the favourites?
Not really. There are only four stages offering the 50-30 1st-2nd split, and eight that are classified as medium which have the 30-25 split. The balance should thus still be towards the sprinters who can get over the climbs, although it could simply mean that the competition is a bit more exciting, turning into a ding dong battle between pure sprinters and puncheurs, albeit not clashing with one another and winning different stages.
Of course, the problem is with so many mountain stages and hilly finishes inputted by ASO, the green jersey has been royally relegated back in the narrative so that it will only pop up every few days, perhaps with a long wait from stage 7 to stage 21 (give those are the last two “flat” days) to see a field sprint.
Coupled with the fact that riders seem to be more interested in stage wins than winning the green jersey (witness Mark Cavendish’s dismissal of competing for the intemediate sprints, until he twigged he would probably win if he did), and the competition isn’t really onto a winner. For instance, everyone remembers Robbie McEwen’s triplet of wins in 2005 and Mark Cavendish’s quartet in 2008, rather than Thor Hushovd and Oscar Freire winning the green jersey in those years (with a paltry 1 win between the two of them.) I’ve already moaned about the lack of sprinters opportunities before (and no doubt will do again), so I’ll leave it at that.
So, who could win this perhaps not quite as relished as it should be jersey?
There are likely to be three riders who have won the Tour’s points competition before on the start line in Uterecht, with a further eight who have won the points competitions in the other two Grand Tours. Then, there’s an assortment of others who will no doubt be challenging. The graphs, by the way, are the riders wins over their careers.
Previous Green Jersey Winners
Tour de France 2012-2014
Grand Tour stage wins: 7 (4 at Tour, 2012 , 2013)
Leadout: Daniele Bennati
Wins in 2015: 6, including stages of Tirreno-Adriatico, The Tour of California (and the Overall) and the Tour de Suisse.
Sagan is once more the favourite for the competition despite the rule changes, having won at a canter the last three years, although given the cruel barbs about him trying to set a record for the number of ways to come second, he will want to get back to winning ways and add some more wacky celebrations to his wardrobe rather than conquer the green jersey for a fourth time to equal Sean Kelly. His problem will come from a lack of support from Tinkoff, who will need to put a lot of resources behind Contador’s bid for the overall, not that Sagan really needs a leadout. Knowing Oleg Tinkov, it’s more likely that the Russian will leave the Slovakian at home just for the media coverage it would generate. Still, yellow and green haven’t been won by the same team since T-Mobile in 1997, but to evoke a Sherwen-ism, if anyone can do it, it’s Sagan and Contador.
Tour de France 2011, Giro d’Italia 2013, Vuelta a Espana 2010
Grand Tour stage wins: 43 (25 at Tour, 2008 , 2009 , 2010 , 2011 , 2012 , 2013 )
Leadout: Tom Boonen, Mark Renshaw, Fabio Sabatini, Matteo Trentin, Zdnek Stybar, Ilijo Keisse, Tony Martin
Wins in 2015: 13, including Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, and stages of the Tours of San Luis, Dubai, Turkey and California.
Cavendish probably does not care about winning another Green jersey – it wouldn’t add anything to his legend, so it’s likely he will simply concentrate on winning stages, something he hasn’t done since July 2013 thanks to his injury hit 2014. With Kittel not looking too hot, this is as good a chance as any to rack up the wins he needs to close down on Eddy Merckx’s Tour stage record of 34. His leadout will be interesting to watch however – for all the big names, they more often than not seem to go too early or simply without the required power to line out the field.
Tour de France 2007
Grand Tour stage wins: 8 (6 at Tour, 2004 , 2005 , 2007 )
Leadout: Unlikely given Etixx will be supporting Cavendish
Wins in 2015: 2, with one a stage of the Tour of Belgium
Boonen said when he won green in 2007 that he was effectively ticking off a box that he needed to in his career for the type of rider he was, and for a rider who has made overtures about not liking sprinting anymore, it’s unlikely he’ll be pushing for the win (he might not even be at the race) unless by some miracle he won the Cobbled stage and Cavendish was ill/injured.
Riders who have won the Giro/Vuelta points competition.
The angry, angry Frenchman will try to complete his grand tour set, no doubt while keeping an eye out to ensure he beats bitter rival Arnaud Demare whatever happens. Bouhanni has been known to get over hills, but he’s so punchy (no pun intended) it’s unlikely he’ll really be that much of a trouble to the competition.
Are we seriously considering Rodriguez as a green jersey contender?! Yes and no. Rodriguez won the Giro points jersey on a fairly uphill course, and this year’s Tour has the sort of finishes that suit his aggressive style. He could feasibly accumulate enough points to overhaul the sprinters, but he’d need to be basically winning every uphill finish, which is unlikely.
Awared the competition in the same manner he was given the 2011 Giro after Contador’s DQ. He won’t be winning Green here.
Vuelta a Espana 2012, 2013
Grand Tour stage wins: 11 (3 at Tour, 2005, 2008, 2012)
Leadout: The riders he comes second/third behind (just joking Alejandro!)
Wins in 2015: 6, with Liege-Bastonge-Liege, Fleche Wallone, and 3 stages of the Volta a Catalunya
Similar to Rodriguez, Valverde could get plenty points on uphill finishes and has been known to mix it in bunch sprints occasionally. However, with the
supplanting helping Nairo Quintana more on his mind, any challenge for Green will likely evolve as the race goes on, rather than being an outright goal.
Once a feared sprinter known as the panther, and one of only a handful of current riders to have won on the Champs-Elysees, Bennati is now a grunt for Contador and Sagan who hasn’t won by himself in two years. Will make a reasonable lead out man for Sagan though.
Vuelta a Espana 2014
Grand Tour stage wins: 10 (0 at Tour)
Leadout: More likely to be his job, but Tom Dumoulin, Tom Veelers. Koen De Kort.
Wins in 2015: 5, winning Milan San Remo and Paris-Roubaix
The mighty German will be keen to try his chances on the more lumpy stages, although if Kittel continues to show poor form, he may find himself shunted into the lead role on the flat stages, which would give him a great shot at winning green. Having won San Remo and Roubaix, just winning a Tour stage would cap a great year, and a battle between him, Kristoff and Michael Matthews would be great to witness on the lumpy days.
Vuelta a Espana 2009
Grand Tour stage wins: 13 (6 at Tour, 2011, 2012 , 2013, 2014)
Leadout: Greg Henderson, Jens Debusschere, Marcel Sieberg, Adam Hansen
Wins in 2015: 9, including Giro d’Italia stage, stages of Tours of Luxembourg, Ster ZLM (and Overall), Turkey, Algarve and Paris Nice.
The most consistent winner in Grand Tours, and a prolific winner in general, “The Gorilla” will again probably be more interested in a simple stage win, but could feasibly compete for Green as he has the last couple of years, especially as, for such a big bloke, he seems capable of getting over hills every so often.
Greg Van Avermaet
Vuelta a Espana 2008
Grand Tour stage wins: 1 (0 at Tour)
Wins in 2015: 3, including a stage of both Tirrenno Adriatico and the Tour of Belgium, as well as the overall of the latter.
Van Avermaet will just want to win a stage, and will probably end up being roped into protecting Van Garderen. Or duelling with Sagan over who gets to come second. Lolz.
Riders who havent won points competitions
Grand Tour stage wins: 11 (8 at Tour, 2013 , 2014 )
Leadout: John Degenkolb, Koen de Kort, Tom Veelers, Tom Dumoulin
Wins in 2015: 0 officially, but won the Criterium at the Tour Down Under
After the last two years, Kittel should be the favourite to wrap up every sprint and the points competition with it, but illness has contributed to poor form, and it now looks unlikely that he will get to Uterecht in top form. Perhaps aiming for a third win on the Champs Elysees, if he even takes the start, would be wiser than a green jersey bid, which would be eagerly taken up by John Degenkolb on Giant Alpecin.
Update: Indeed, it seems my prophecy that Kittel might not ride has come to fruition.
Grand Tour stage wins: 2 (2 at Tour, 2014)
Leadout: Such a beast he doesn’t need one
Wins in 2015: 18, including the Tour of Flanders, Scheldeprijs, and stages of the Tour of The Fjords, Suisse, Qatar, De-Panne and Paris Nice.
The big danger and the “winningest” rider of 2015, Kristoff has the power, speed and guile to take green. He doesn’t need a lead out train, can get over hills and has the speed to almost match and occasionally beat Kittel and Cavendish. A strong cobbled rider as well, his chances could come down to whether he can beat Sagan and whether the Slovakian targets the intermediate sprints as he did in 2014.
Demare is unlikely to trouble the top sprinters too much at this point, but he could build himself into the competition by looking at the Intermediate sprints.
Grand Tour stage wins: 0
Leadout: Kevin Rezza
Wins in 2015: 4
Coquard took a lot of points at the Intermediate sprints in 2014, and will no doubt try a similar tactic this year. Unfortunately, his speed at the actual finish line probably isn’t high enough for him to really challenge.
Grand Tour stage wins: 5 (0 at Tour)
Leadout: Simon Gerrans, Brett Lancaster, Daryl Impey
Wins in 2015: 4, including stages of the Giro d’Italia, Tour of the Basque Country and Paris-Nice
A wildcard for the competition, Matthews can be a bit of an enigma, but when he turns up he can beat pretty much everyone. Good on uphill finishes and on flat sprints, he used to compete against Sagan regularly as a U23, and as a previous U23 World Champion, he certainly has the talent to add to his stage wins at the Giro and the Vuelta.
There is MTN-Qhubeka’s band of sprinters, with Edvald Boassen Hagen and Tyler Farrar, who will be trying to mix it up, but again, a stage is worth more to them than the green jersey.