Tour de France 2016: green jersey contenders

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Tour de France 2016: green jersey contenders

Can anybody stop Peter Sagan topping the Tour de France points classification for a fifth consecutive year?

Peter Sagan bids for a fifth consecutive green jersey at the 2016 Tour de France, one short of Erik Zabel’s points classification record.

Since first bagging the jersey in 2012, Sagan has been unstoppable when it comes to racking up the sprint and intermediate sprint points, boosted by his versatility and his willingness to attack on the tougher stages.

Peter Sagan claimed his fourth consecutive green jersey in 2015 (pic: Sirotti)

Not even a change of rules last year, designed to favour sprint stage winners, could stop him as – despite missing out on a stage win for the second consecutive year – Sagan’s combative ride ensured a fourth maillot vert  for the collection.

He is now joint second in the all-time list, level with Sean Kelly, so can anybody stop the world champion making it five in a row?

We’ve taken a closer look at the contenders.

Peter Sagan (SVK) – Tinkoff

World champion Peter Sagan will start the Tour de France in the rainbow jersey but the chances are he won’t be wearing it for very long.

Peter Sagan has hit form, and banished the ‘curse of the rainbow jersey’ (pic: Sirotti)
  • Most TDF points classification wins

    6 – Erik Zabel
    4 – Sean Kelly, Peter Sagan
    3 – Jan Janssen, Eddy Merckx, Freddy Maertens, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, Robbie McEwen

Sagan’s domination of the points classification has been so great in recent years, he has comfortably won the green jersey despite not winning a stage in either of the last two years.

Even that could change this year, however, with Sagan shaking off any notion of ‘the curse of the rainbow jersey’ with a superb spring campaign, which served as a springboard for a great season so far.

Wins at Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders were followed by two stage wins apiece at the Tour of California and Tour de Suisse, and the 26-year-old will like the look of some of the Tour de France stages too.

In fact, a small climb to the finish on stage two could mean it’s not just the green jersey in Sagan’s sights this year but a potential shot at a few days in yellow too.

Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Soudal

Andre Greipel was the nearest challenger to Peter Sagan for the green jersey at last year’s Tour de France, thanks in no small part to his four stage wins.

Andre Greipel won three stages at this year’s Giro d’Italia, taking his Grand Tour career tally to 20 (Pic: Sirotti)

Three more stage wins at this year’s Giro d’Italia, before he abandoned to prepare for the Tour, took his career tally to 20 Grand Tour stage wins, meanwhile.

And having reclaimed his German national title last weekend – the third time in four years he will race the Tour de France in black, yellow and red striped jersey – Greipel is a man in form.

Sagan will take some beating, and with Marcel Kittel back in the bunch, Greipel faces stiffer competition when it comes to racking up the stage wins which boosted his points tally so significantly last time out.

But the German has the form, if nothing else, and will be a certain contender when it comes to the sprints.

Marcel Kittel (GER) – Etixx-QuickStep

Marcel Kittel returns to the Tour de France after missing last year’s race, keen to make up for lost time and to add to his eight career stage wins.

Marcel Kittel won two stages at the Giro d’Italia, and has bagged ten wins in all since joining Etixx-QuickStep (pic: Sirotti)

He pulled on the yellow jersey after the first stage of both the 2013 and 2014 races, and is favourite to do so again this year, having already led the Giro d’Italia in 2016.

Kittel’s back-to-back stage wins at the Giro took his tally to ten victories since joining Etixx-QuickStep in the winter, but he missed the chance to add to that when Greipel outsprinted him in the German national road race.

Nevertheless, his compatriot showed that – under the new rules last year– sheer volume of stage wins can put you right in contention for the green jersey.

Kittel has never showed much interest in the points classification, preferring instead to rack up stage win after stage win, but that could change this year.

Mark Cavendish (GBR)/Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) – Dimension Data

Mark Cavendish, winner of the green jersey in 2011, is the only rider other than Sagan who will roll out from Mont-Saint-Michel as a former points classification champion at the Tour.

Mark Cavendish leads Dimension Data’s sprinting charge, with Edvald Boasson Hagen also hunting stage wins (pic: Sirotti)

However, while the yellow jersey on the first stage remains a big target, Cavendish has spent large chunks of the season working on the track ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

It has been suggested for much of the season that, as a result of his Olympics commitments, finishing the Tour will be out of the question, which rules him out of the running for the points classification.

Team-mate Edvald Boasson Hagen could be a beneficiary of that though – the versatile Norwegian champion has been back to winning ways in 2016 and claimed the green jersey at the Criterium du Dauphine.

Michael Matthews (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE

A disastrous Tour de France debut, which saw him break his ribs in a big crash on stage two meant – while he carried on riding – Michael Matthews missed the chance to showcase his best form.

Michael Matthews is a versatile sprinter (pic: Sirotti)

But having led both the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana during his career, the yellow jersey would complete the set and is certainly not out of the question.

A couple of tough finishes on the sprint stages could open the door to the Australian, though stage wins are a bigger target for the Australian team than the green jersey.

Nevertheless, Matthews is versatile enough to rack up the points on the slightly tougher days, when the out-and-out sprinters will struggle.

Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha

Five stage wins by the end of February boded very well for Katusha’s Norwegian fastman Alexander Kristoff but things have slowed down a little since then.

Alexander Kristoff was in top form at the start of the year, but wins have been harder to come by since (pic: Sirotti)

Winner of two stages at the 2014 Tour de France, Kristoff had just a handful of top-five finishes to show for his efforts last year but on his day he remains a sprinter to be feared.

Kristoff is a faster finisher than Sagan, while his Tour of Flanders win last year shows he is not just a man for fair weather and flat stages.

The Norwegian was actually second in the points classification in 2014, the year of his two stage wins, but nobody remembers the runner-up in the secondary classifications.

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