• Michael Matthews leads the sprinters up the climb on stage 5 of the 2017 Tour de France ( (Getty)Source: Getty
With the disqualification of odds-on favourite for the green jersey, Peter Sagan, from the Tour de France, the battle for the sprint jersey has been blown wide open.
By
Jamie Finch-Penninger

6 Jul 2017 - 6:08 PM  UPDATED 6 Jul 2017 - 7:41 PM

French favourite Arnaud Demare (FDJ) deservedly occupies pole position currently after a win, a second place and a sixth, along with scoring points at the intermediate sprints. It has been an impressive showing for Demare, but can the 25-year-old withstand the challenge of the much more experienced sprinters present at the race or the versatile talents of Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb)?

Tour organisers ASO have heavily weighted the competition towards pure sprinters this season, with more sprint points attached to the flat stages than the hilly ones. There’s also a real lack of stages that suit the puncheurs, restricting the advantage that can be gained by possessing a more versatile set of abilities.

Nonetheless, Australian star Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) is now the pre-eminent fast man who can also climb at a high level and he’ll have opportunities to take points that none of the other sprinters can hope to contest. Crunching the numbers reveals that Matthews will have to be at the top of his game if he is to secure the green jersey.

There are seven ‘flat’ sprint stages remaining - Stages 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. It’s worth noting that one of those course, Stage 16, is well-suited to Matthews and may offer an opportunity to maximise his point gain over the other sprinters.

The hilly stages offer 30 points for the winner, the high mountains stages and time trial stages offer 20 for the victor, whist the intermediate sprint have a maximum of 20 points for first across the line.

Let’s take a look at the realistic chances for green and what they’ll have to do to stand atop the podium in Paris. The predicted points tallies don’t take into account crashes, other misfortune and breakaways winning flat stages, so there’s plenty of scope for lower points tallies than what is indicated.

Sprint Jersey contenders

1st Arnaud Demare (FDJ) 

Current points: 127

Demare has been the dominant sprinter so far this Tour de France, with a win, a second and an impressive 6th place finish on the tough finish into Longwy on Stage 3. He would be sitting at the top of the points standing even if Sagan was still at the race, and would probably fancy his chances of holding onto green all the way through to Paris.

He’s in the box seat at the moment, but needs to maintain his consistency. He’s already got a handy buffer over his nearest rivals, but one crash or missed opportunity will put him right back amongst the pack.

He’s one of the few sprinters that will look at Stage 14 in to Rodez as a chance to grab a few points, but will likely struggle to keep up with Matthews when it comes to getting into breakaways in the medium to high mountains.  

Predicted finishing points tally range: 297-502

2nd Marcel Kittel (Quickstep Floors)

Current points: 87

Kittel looks to be the fastest sprinter at the race, but he’s having a lot of troubles with his leadout train. In Stage 2, he got lucky and found a good wheel in Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) but he got stuck behind a crash in Stage 4 and limped down the straight to collect a paucity of points.

He'll no doubt be having some stern words to his leadout train ahead of tonight's stage, because as we've seen before, he can get pretty angry.

 

He can’t climb, so he’ll need to be the dominant sprinter on the flat stages and maximise his advantage there.

Predicted points tally range: 257-437

3rd Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb)

Current points: 73

Matthews has a wider number of stages that he can score points on, but he’ll need to keep chipping away on the flat stages as well, to keep himself in the game. The points available drop off rapidly on the flat finishes, so he’ll probably need to jag a good result in at least one flat stage to offset his likely mediocre results in the rest.

Stage 14, 15 and 16 will be Judgement day or days for the Australian, one’s a hill-top finish, another is a medium mountains stage where Matthews needs to get in the break and secure the intermediate points and the third is a full-points stage where a number of the sprinters are going to find it really tough to make the finish. Matthews can realistically take 100+ points on those three stages whilst his adversaries will struggle to get more than 10 or so.

The question will be whether the constant efforts of sprinting will reduce Matthews’ ability to climb and get in the break, in which case he’ll be giving up the one advantage he has over the rest.

Predicted points range: 243-443

Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) are all top quality sprinters who could mount a charge up the rankings. But with their points currently sitting at 63, 48 and 28 respectively, it will take a string of dominant performances from them to run the top three close and they haven’t looked in that good form so far in this Tour de France. 

It should be an enthralling battle, but you'll need to keep your spreadsheets and calculators close to hand to fully work it all out. For Aussie fans, keep an eye out for Michael Matthews on those key stages.