• Michael Matthews of Australia celebrates winning the sprinter's green jersey at the Tour de France. (AAP)Source: AAP
Peter Sagan is once again the hot favourite for the green jersey but as Michael Matthews' victory proved last year, anything can happen at the Tour de France.
Jane Aubrey

Cycling Central
2 Jul 2018 - 12:56 PM  UPDATED 2 Jul 2018 - 12:59 PM

Canberra’s Michael Matthews joined compatriots Robbie McEwen (2002, 2004, 2006) and Baden Cooke (2003) as the third Australian to take home the maillot vert from the Tour de France when he rallied for the victory in 2017.

It was a test of character despite hot favourite Peter Sagan’s disqualification and a race-ending crash to Marcel Kittel – proof once again there’s no such thing as a comfortable win at the Tour. Matthews left Paris in green with two stage wins and a haul of 370 points – 136 more than nearest rival, André Greipel.

Ingloriously ousted from the race in 2017, three-time world champion Sagan again will be looking to equal Erik Zabel’s record of six green jersey wins and is once again favoured to take the prize he has dominated over the last decade.

How the points are accumulated

The flat stages - 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 13, 18, and 21 – offer 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 hilly 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.

Mountain stages give the winner 20 points, 17 points for second, 15 for third down to 1 point for the 15th placed rider across the line.

Time trials have the same points allocation as mountain stages while 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 placed rider.

The riders to watch

Michael Matthews (Sunweb)

Days of racing 2018: 27
2018 victories: 1

Fractures to his left shoulder following a crash at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad dented Matthews’ early season momentum, but his recent form at the Tour de Suisse off the back of his prologue win at the Tour of Romandie suggests he’s right where he needs to be.

Matthews was quoted as saying his interest in chasing green again was limited with one jersey already under his belt late last year. Additionally, his fortunes rest with the success of Tom Dumoulin’s GC aspirations when it comes to team support. 

Peter Sagan (Bora – hansgrohe)

Days of racing 2018: 36
2018 victories: 4

Sagan beat Matthews to the points classification at the Tour de Suisse on count back, where he also claimed a stage win. Sagan followed that performance with the record sixth Slovakian road championship. A month out from the Grand Depart, Sagan claimed he still had work to do – that may be the case but he’s still the closest you get to a sure thing in July.

Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors)

Days of racing 2018: 42
2018 victories: 7

The young Colombian stands to become just the second from the South American nation to wear the yellow jersey on the first stage. Gaviria is on debut, and he looms as a genuine contender for the points classification regardless of missing key lead-out man, Iljo Keisse, thanks to the overall strength of the Belgian squad. Get ready to hear Gaviria’s name a lot throughout July.

Marcel Kittel (Katusha – Alpecin)

Days of racing 2018: 34
2018 victories: 2

Kittel sprinted to five stage victories at the 2017 Tour, and an almighty fight for the green jersey with Matthews was brewing when the German was brought down in a crash and forced to abandon the race. At a new team for 2018, Kittel’s sprint train is still a work in progress. Was his head-to-head results against Gaviria at the Tour of California a sign of things to come? Kittel will be hoping not.

Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo)

Days of racing 2018: 30
2018 victories: 9

The speed merchant within the LottoNL-Jumbo mixed bag of team aspirations, Groenewegen has matured a great deal since his stage win on the Champs Elysees last July. The Dutchman has the most wins of the key sprinters this season heading into the Tour, but that trend needs to continue when it matters over the opening week to be considered a genuine threat in the points classification.

Arnaud Démare (Groupama – FDJ)

Days of racing 2018: 29
2018 victories: 2

With no Thibaut Pinot, Groupama – FDJ’s focus on sprints works in Démare’s favour. A year can be a long time in cycling, Démare was the form sprinter heading into the 2017 Tour but was yet to earn a stage win in a Grand Tour. That all changed on stage 2 but a week later, Démare’s race was over after he and three teammates failed to make the tie cut on stage 9. The recent scalps of Sagan and Gaviria at the Tour de Suisse will give a lot of confidence to the Frenchman.

Greg van Avermaet (BMC)

Days of racing 2018: 44
2018 victories: 1

Van Avermaet’s versatility gives him an edge in the battle for green, but it’s worth remembering that the best the Belgian has finished in the classification is 8th in 2016. The classics specialist has a handful of stages where he’ll be a good chance for the win, and in the first week, where bonus seconds are up for grabs in the GC battle, strength in numbers for BMC could deliver van Avermaet the green jersey.