Should Sagan top the points table come 23 July, he will have equalled the record of Erik Zabel who reigned supreme in green six times (1996 through 2001).
The threat of a lay down misere could have some viewers hell bent on skipping the nine sprint stages, dedicating themselves to highlights packages and designating their late night viewing only for the five true mountain stages.
It’s okay, we’ve all done it… but there is a decent case to suggest that Sagan will have a battle on his hands, even if there’s only a few who can realistically give him a nudge.
As entertaining as the Slovakian is, the thought of anyone winning the green jersey with double the points haul over the runner-up – as Sagan did to Marcel Kittel in 2016 – is not the outcome we want. It’s the big show. We want more.
The points classification has been a bit of a moveable feast over the last decade, adjusted in order to reward Mark Cavendish for his sprint dominance. Sagan then came along and despite the changes made for the 2015 Tour, has managed to maintain his firm grip on the Green Jersey and says much about his extraordinary abilities on the bike.
Tour organisers have preserved the status quo for this 104th edition with the flattest of the flat – Stages 2, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 16, 19 and 21 – offering 50 points for the first man across the finish line, 30 points for second and 20 points for third down to 15th place who will receive 1 point.
The lumpier stages offer a more balanced points allocation with 30 points for first, 25 for second, 22 for third down to 2 points for the 15th placed rider. Each intermediate sprint, existing on all stages bar the time trials, allocates 20 points for first, 17 for second, 15 points for third down to 1 for the 15th rider.
The emphasis placed on the nine sprint stages means that the advantage rests with the stronger teams who can protect their fast men in the bunch when it comes to the hustle for the intermediate sprint. Consistency will be key.
So which riders have the potential to upset Sagan?
Michael Matthews (Sunweb)
Days of racing: 31
2017 victories: 2
A new team for Matthews this season took time to settle but the 26 year-old’s victory in June 12 at the Tour du Suisse was an important scalp, solidly finishing ahead of both Sagan and John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo). Sunweb have all their eggs in ‘Bling’s’ basket and this should hopefully result in the Canberra rider’s best Tour de France yet.
Greg Van Avermaet (BMC)
Days of racing: 42
2017 victories: 6
The best the Belgian has finished in the battle for green is 8th in 2016. If you’re wearing your sensible pants, there could be reason to think that BMC’s ambitions for Porte rule out a green jersey tilt. Van Avermaet is not that sensible and he will be strike out up the road on his own – because he can. And if that happens, advantage Porte. See, sensible is boring.
Arnaud Démare (FDJ)
Days of racing: 42
2017 victories: 7
Last year’s Milan – San Remo winner is yet to claim stage victory in a grand tour but don’t let that put you off. Démare is arguably the form sprinter coming into this year’s Grand Boucle. He looked good at the Critérium du Dauphiné where he finished ahead of Alexander Kristoff (Katusha - Alpecin), Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis, Solutions Crédits) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Merida) before going on to win the one-day Halle Ingooigem last week.
Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors)
Days of racing: 33
2017 victories: 8
Kittel got the better of Sagan in Sacramento at the Tour of California and it was a victory owed to the strength of his lead out train. The German is all about power and lacks the canniness of some of the other hopefuls. If Kittel is to finally pull on the green jersey in Paris he needs to defeat Sagan and everyone else at the finish line in the majority of the nine flat stages.
*A handful of quality riders were considered but it remains to be seen how willing they might be to challenge and they may only be hunting for stage glory, including, John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo), Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin), Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis).