• Marcel Kittel wears the green jersey after Stage 7 (Getty Images Europe)Source: Getty Images Europe
Marcel Kittel (Quickstep Floors) has confirmed a bid for the sprinter's jersey now that he's back in green once more and with defending champion Peter Sagan (BORA-Hansgrohe) having been disqualified from the Tour de France.
Sophie Smith

8 Jul 2017 - 9:19 AM 

At the beginning of the Tour, Kittel had all but ruled out his chances of winning the maillot vert, citing the Slovak's all-round skill and stranglehold on green for the past five years.

“When you look to the last five, six Tours de France, every time Peter Sagan was there, then there was always a sprinter who won four stages and had not even a small chance to go for the green jersey,” Kittel had remarked after his stage two victory.

“I don’t hope that it happens of course, but the only way you can win the jersey I think is by Peter Sagan getting sick, or having to leave the race for another reason. Otherwise, the chances aren’t there for a pure sprinter.”

At the time no-one imagined that latter scenario would eventuate just a couple of days after, but Sagan was contentiously kicked off the race for a collision with Mark Cavendish on Stage 4.

Now Kittel is now leading the points classification following an exhilarating victory on stage seven - his third of this race.

Sagan's absence has for the first time in five years presented an opportunity for pure sprinters to reclaim the classification as their own, which they haven't been able to do since Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) took a career-first green jersey in 2011.

The world champion Sagan hasn't relied on stage victories, rather his extensive versatility on every terrain to reign supreme. He can be in the top five mix of bunch kicks, and claim line honours on undulating stages.

Arguably his biggest advantage in the fight for the prize, however, has been the star's ability to out-of-body-experience suffer in no-man's land just for a prime on an intense ascent, which his rivals forgo. Sagan's disqualification has altered the approach to the points classification, and changed the minds of some, including Kittel.

Triumph this year may ultimately come through sheer volume of stage victories, rather than consistency across all course profiles. That's a tantalising concept when you consider the increased number of flat stages ASO has injected into the Tour this season.

"I think the chance is definitely there this year, but for me at the moment it's most important to concentrate on getting more victories, which gives you a lot of points," Kittel said after his stage six win.

"Then you have to see in five, six, seven, eight days where I stand in the classification - if I'm still in second, if I can take the lead.

"It's going to be interesting, and may be a fight to the last stage."

Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) reverberated Kittel's sentiment that stage wins would this year be imperative to success.

The German has not yet chalked a victory at the 104th edition and was visibly frustrated at the conclusion of stage seven on Friday, answering questions for his national press only before leaving immediately in a team car.

"It comes with stage wins because you get the most points," he said of the green jersey. "When you're second and third you already lose a lot of points. I will still try to be in the mix and see how it turns out. For the moment, there is no stage win so I'm already behind."

Green jersey battle thrown wide open
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.

All that being said, more versatile sprinters like previous leader Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Michael Matthews (Sunweb) haven't discounted their respective opportunities either.

Matthews, who finished third behind Kittel and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) on Friday, has been strong in his resolve regarding the points classification both with and without Sagan in the race.