• Peter Sagan can afford to be confident, attempting his fifth consecutive defense of the green jersey (Getty Images) (AFP)Source: AFP
It has been a procession for the last few years for Peter Sagan. Despite not winning a stage, he has dominated the maillot vert competition and looks set to do so again this time around. Can anyone cause an upset?
By
Jamie Finch-Penninger

30 Jun 2016 - 8:25 AM  UPDATED 30 Jun 2016 - 10:46 AM

The Rules

Points are awarded for the first 15 finishing positions at the stage finish and for the first 15 past the intermediate sprint point on each stage. There are three different categories of stages, the sprint stages, the hilly and medium mountains finishes and the high mountains, with more points awarded to the profiles that favour the fast men.
The breakdown is as follows:

  • Nine category 1 stages (50-30-20-18-16-14-12-10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2 points)
  • Two category 2 stages (30-25-22-19-17-15-13-11-9-7-6-5-4-3-2 points) 
  • Ten category 3 stages (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)

With the points concentrated on the flatter stages, it plays into the hands of the fast men to fight it out for the maillot vert. However the battle for points in the past four years has been dominated by Peter Sagan's consistency over the course of the race. So who's going to win the jersey this time round?

 

Peter Sagan (Tinkoff)

World champion Peter Sagan has proved the dominant force in the competition for the past four seasons at the Tour de France, winning the jersey with seeming ease in recent editions after consistently finishing near the pointy end of stages and winning points in mountains stages where others can't hope to follow the versatile Slovakian.

This is despite the fact that he hasn't won a stage since 2013. He instead racks up the points by being the most consistent of the peloton, finishing high up the standings against the top sprinters before battling with the likes of Greg van Avermaet (BMC) on harder finishes. Even the high mountains are a target for the flamboyant Sagan, who has the ability to go with the early break over the initial mountains, win the intermediate sprint, then drop back to the peloton

He doesn't have a great deal of team support as Alberto Contador is the established leader of the Tinkoff squad, but that didn't stop him last year when he was faced with exactly the same dilemma and he won the competition by 66 points

Few can hope to match his bag of tricks and there are many that believe that as long as he doesn't crash, Sagan has the classification tied up before the race has even begun.

Michael Matthews (Orica-Greenedge)

One of the few who may be able to match Sagan over the uphill finishes and mountains intermediate sprints is the Australian superstar. The multiple stage winner at the Giro and Vuelta had a painful Tour de France last year, crashing early and breaking some ribs but struggling onto the finish in Paris with the hope of coming good to give himself a chance at a result.

That bloody-mindedness will again be required if he wants to have a go and getting green. Orica-GreenEDGE have downplayed that as an ambition for the Tour de France, citing stage wins as their major goal, but you would think that if an opportunity arises early they will pursue it

His form this season has been very good, but less so in the recent Tour de Suisse, where he looked a bit behind the other fast men present, including Sagan, who looked to have him covered for speed.

 

Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep)

The big German is generally considered the fastest man on the two wheels, but when it comes to getting over a hill, finishing off a long stage or making a critical crosswind split he is often found wanting. That's no criticism, you have to give up climbing ability to be that powerful in the final dash to the line and Kittel looks to have the edge on most of the other fast men in that regard.

He may be slightly concerned with his recent form after racing unimpressively at the Ster ZLM tour and then finishing behind Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) at the national championships on the weekend. He'll also have less of a leadout than he is accustomed to as the team will enter the race with split goals. Nontheless, Maximiliano Richeze (Etixx-QuickStep) put in a superb showing at the Tour de Suisse and can be relied upon to be a top notch leadout man.

For him to win green, he would have to absolutely dominate the flat stages, he would need to win five or six stages and also race handily at the intermediates to give himself a shot at the classification.

Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal)

Another big German, Greipel will be heading into the race full of confidence and in the stripes of the German national champion after a victory on the weekend. Winner of four stages of last year's Tour, he clearly saves his best form for the Tour de France.

He will have probably the best leadout of any of the teams at his disposal, with the likes of Henderson, Debusschere, Roelandts and Sieberg the envy of the peloton on the flat stages. He will consistently get delievered to or near the front of the peloton in the finale the most consistently of anyone in the race, giving him every chance to match the four victories he took last year.

In the green jersey battle, Greipel does suffer once the terrain gets tougher, but he is far from a one-dimensional rider. Nonetheless, despite four wins last year, he wasn't within reaching distance of Peter Sagan and would need to either up his wins or change his tactics to turn the tables.

Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data)

It seems uncharitable to leave it this late to mention the 26-time stage winner and former green jersey victor Mark Cavendish, but there are specific reasons why it won't be the year for the Manxmann this time around. The big one is the Olympics, where Cavendish will be competing on the track.

The preparation for a tilt at gold is quite different from the physiological work required to win road stages, let alone compete for the green jersey. Indeed, it seems unlikely that 'Cav' will even complete the Tour this year to give himself enough time to recover for Rio.

He showed that he's not without a chance yet as he scrapped to a second in a select bunch sprint behind Adam Blythe (Tinkoff) at the British nationals on the weekend. He will need to be on another level to take on the best in the world, but there should be no counting out the class of Cavendish.

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha)

Kristoff has had an uncharacteristically quiet year so far, after a strong start to the year in the Middle East promised a stellar season. The Norwegian tough man is one who has a bit to prove heading into the race, which may have been part of the reason that he wasn't given full leadership of the squad, which is half filled with climbers.

He still has an solid leadout of Haller, Morkov and Guarnieri at his disposal, but he will be battling from behind the likes of Andre Greipel on a regular basis.

He was 2nd in the points jersey in 2014, but 149 points behind Sagan. The problem again is that he can't hope to match the versatility of the four-time green jersey winner and unless he has been hiding some secret superb form that will allow him to dominate the sprints, he will again be 100+ points behind in the race for green again.

Possible bolters

Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) is developing year on year and now finds himself at the point where he is a legitimate candidate for any sprint finish and not just a rider that pops up occasionally. His team is full of opportunists so he'll receive little support but he's one to watch.

John Degenkolb's (Giant-Alpecin) return from the horrific early season car crash is one of the feel good cycling stories of the year. Thankfully the Paris-Roubaix and Milan San Remo winner is at the point where he can compete in this year's Tour, but he will still have to work his way into some form. He may be a factor on the uphill sprints, which has always been his favoured terrain.

The new boy on the block to keep an eye on is Dylan Groenewegen (Lotto NL-Jumbo) who has consistently been churning out top performances at lesser races all season, but recently stepped his game, winning the Dutch nationals and the Rund um Koln where he knocked off Greipel for the win. The neo-pro is a flexible rider who can adapt to different conditions and looks like the style of rider who will be able to challenge for the maillot vert in the future.

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