World champion Peter Sagan can tie level with Erik Zabel’s record of six consecutive points classification wins at the 2017 Tour de France, as he bids to swap the rainbow stripes for the green jersey once again.

Sagan has topped the points classification, and by a considerable margin too, every year since his debut Tour de France in 2012.

He was in irresistible form last time out too, winning three stages and impressing, as ever, across all terrain.

Sagan's second place finish on the final stage was his tenth top ten finish in the race - a remarkable feat of consistency. Sagan also won stages two, 11 and 16. (Pic: Sirotti)

But with seven flat stages on this year’s route, despite the prevalence of the high mountains throughout the race, there will be ample opportunity for his sprinting rivals to rack up the points too?

So can anybody stop Peter Sagan winning the points classification at the 2017 Tour de France? Here’s how the sprinters are shaping up…

Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe)

Peter Sagan’s all-round ability makes him a clear favourite to win the points classification again, as his knack for scoring points on undulating stages repeatedly pays off.

He has won seven Tour de France stages in all, three of which arrived last year to end two winless years, but his ability to repeatedly place in the top ten has meant the green jersey has been his long before the race has reached Paris every year.

Peter Sagan, world champion, Bora-hansgrohe, 2017, pic - Sirotti

His second year as world champion has been a fruitful one too, even if he missed out on a major Spring Classics win this time out.

Sagan geared up for the Tour by winning two stages and the points classification at the Tour de Suisse, his traditional form finder for the race.

With that sort of form, unless one sprinter dominates the much flatter stages, it is hard to see anybody even coming close to denying Sagan a record-equalling green jersey victory.

Tour de France stage wins: seven

Wins in 2017: six

Points classification 2016: 1st (470 pts)

Marcel Kittel (QuickStep Floors)

If any sprinter is to dominate the flattest stages, however, the smart money would be on Marcel Kittel, who is bidding to join Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel as the only current riders to have won ten or more Tour stages.

The 29-year-old German starts the race with nine wins to his name at the Tour, though only one of those came in last year’s edition.

Marcel Kittel, QuickStep Floors, 2017, pic - Sirotti

Kittel has won nine times in all this year too – the final one of those arriving in the final stage of his final pre-Tour stage race, the Ster ZLM.

With Mark Cavendish leaving the race early to focus on his Olympic preparations, Kittel was second behind Sagan in last year’s points classification – but with less than half the points the Slovakian earned.

If Kittel is to change that, he will need to rediscover the sort of form that saw him dominate the sprints in 2013 and 2014 – and even that may not be enough.

Tour de France stage wins: nine

Wins in 2017: nine

Points classification 2016: 2nd (228 pts)

Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data)

The only other former points classification winner starting this year’s Tour de France, Mark Cavendish clocked the second highest number of points in last year’s Tour, but did not finish the race.

This year, however, his preparations have been ruined by glandular fever and a lengthy spell off the bike, which only ended at this month’s Tour of Slovenia – three months after his last race, Milan-San Remo.

The Manxman also leads the points classification again - whether he stays to fight for the green jersey remains to be seen, however, with the Rio 2016 Olympics also on the agenda (pic: Sirotti)

Cavendish has just one win to his name this year as a result and has already admitted he probably would not be racing at the top level yet were it not the Tour.

Prior to his illness, he was looking at the possibility of breaking Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 Tour de France stage wins but that will not happen now.

Nevertheless, after finishing second on the final stage of the Tour of Slovenia, his recovery is clearly heading the right way.

If he can continue to recover through the race, a stage win on the Champs-Elysees may be a more realistic target than sustained success throughout.

Tour de France stage wins: 30

Wins in 2017: one

Points classification 2016: DNF (291 pts)

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin)

Since winning the Tour of Flanders in 2015 – one year after winning Milan-San Remo and clocking his first Tour de France stage wins – the major victories seem to have dried up for Alexander Kristoff.

Nevertheless, the Katusha-Alpecin fast man has got his arms in the air on six occasions this season, and can never be counted out in the sprints.

Alexander Kristoff, Katusha-Alpecin, 2017, pic - Sirotti

He is not the sprinting contender he looked like he could be when he earned his two stage wins in 2014, but Kristoff still boasts plenty of speed and a strong lead-out.

New team-mate Tony Martin will hope to win the opening stage, and pull on the yellow jersey, in his home country in Dusseldorf but thereafter will become an important part of Kristoff’s armoury.

The Norwegian’s most recent victory was at the Rund um den Finanzplatz at the start of May, however – and he needs a big improvement to be considered a contender for points and stage wins at the Tour.

Tour de France stage wins: two

Wins in 2017: six

Points classification 2016: 5th (172 pts)

Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb)

Michael Matthews, third in the final points classification last season, has all the credentials to challenge for the green jersey in future should he choose to, though this year’s course does not play to his strengths.

Team Sunweb are at the Tour de France with one goal in mind – stage wins – and Matthews, with support from Nikias Arndt, is their man for the flatter stages.

Michael Matthews, Team Sunweb, 2017, pic - Sirotti

The Australian prefers a tougher sprint finish though, and has proved that with his six Grand Tour stage wins to date.

The 26-year-old – who won stage three of the Tour de Suisse – is definitely capable of adding to that tally this year, with the freedom that comes from riding for a team without GC ambitions, but lacks the all-out speed to beat the pure fast men in a bunch sprint.

Tour de France stage wins: one

Wins in 2017: two

Points classification 2016: 3rd (199 pts)

Ben Swift (UAE Team Emirates)

Ben Swift will ride the Tour de France for the first time since 2011, having switched from Team Sky to what eventually became UAE Team Emirates in the winter.

And the 29-year-old Yorkshireman proved he is in decent shape with second place on Alpe d’Huez at the Criterium du Dauphine and an aggressive ride at the British National Road Race Championships last week too.

Ben Swift, UAE Abu Dhabi, climb, hot, summer, Tour Down Under, 2017, pic - Sirotti

He lacks the all-out speed to challenge the fastest sprinters in a bunch finish, but his ride on Alpe d’Huez and his two Milan-San Remo podiums prove he is not one to shy away when the going gets tough either.

Swift is yet to record his first win with UAE Team Emirates – in fact, you have to go back to March 2015 for his last victory – but what a place the Tour de France is to end that drought.

Tour de France stage wins: none

Wins in 2017: none

Points classification 2016: N/A

Arnaud Demare (FDJ)

Arnaud Demare arrives at the Tour de France in top shape and with the French national champion’s jersey on his back – won by outsprinting Nacer Bouhanni in St.Omer last week.

That was his eighth victory of the season, following on from success at Halle Ingooigem four days earlier, while he also notched up a stage win and the points jersey at the Criterium du Dauphine.

Arnaud Demare, FDJ, 2017, pic - Sirotti

After his two previous Tours ended without a stage win and, in truth, in disappointment for the Frenchman, the 2017 edition is his chance to put things right.

His speed looks to have improved, while FDJ – with Thibaut Pinot not targeting the GC – are built around their star sprinter.

The French champion’s jersey always attracts extra pressure at the Tour de France but this year, unlike on his debut in 2014, 25-year-old Demare looks ready to rise to the occasion.

Tour de France stage wins: none

Wins in 2017: eight

Points classification 2016: N/A

Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal)

Alongside former team-mate Mark Cavendish, Andre Greipel is the only other current rider to have won more than ten Tour de France stages, with 11 of his 22 Grand Tour stage wins coming at the Tour.

He has won on the Champs-Elysees, the flagship stage as far as the sprinters are concerned, for the last two years, and after a stage win at the Giro d’Italia the 34-year-old will once again be among the leading sprint contenders.

Andre Greipel, sprint, Giro d'Italia, 2017, pic - RCS Sport

He has four wins to his name in all this season, but he lost out to Dylan Groenewegen and Marcel Kittel at the Ster ZLM earlier this month.

Nevertheless, he has won at least one stage at each of his last 12 Grand Tours, and you would not bet against him extending that extraordinary record at the 2017 Tour de France.

Tour de France stage wins: 11

Wins in 2017: four

Points classification 2016: 4th (178 pts)

Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida)

Sonny Colbrelli has not shied away from targeting the green jersey at his debut Tour de France – the Italian has Peter Sagan in his sights, even if he has admitted the magnitude of the task before him.

But 27-year-old Colbrelli, riding on the WorldTour for the first time since his switch from Bardiani-CSF to Bahrain-Merida, could be a dark horse at this year’s Tour.

Sonny Colbrelli, Bahrain-Merida, 2017, pic - Sirotti

He has proved himself capable in attritional stages – just see his Paris-Nice stage win earlier this year for example, when he led out a monster sprint to win on a day characterised by driving rain and crosswinds.

Colbrelli has only won once since, at De Brabantse Pijl, but he has done enough to prove he should not be overlooked for stage wins at the Tour de France.

Tour de France stage wins: debut

Wins in 2017: two

Points classification 2016: N/A

Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis)

To say Nacer Bouhanni has a point to prove at this year’s Tour de France would be an understatement – the fiery French sprinter needs to do far more than that.

Luck has not been on his side, in fairness, with crashes curtailing his two previous Tour appearances in the first week, but you make your own luck too – and missing last year’s Tour because he got into a hotel fight and needed surgery on his hand is, simply, inexcusable.

Cofidis have already extended their star man’s contract but he needs to start repaying them on the biggest stage, having failed to do so since his switch from FDJ.

Nacer Bouhanni, Cofidis, 2017, pic - Sirotti

His final year at FDJ, in 2014, saw him finish a Grand Tour for the only time in his career, as he won three stages and the points classification at the Giro d’Italia.

He was controversially overlooked for the Tour that year, to Arnaud Demare – who beat him at last week’s French national road race too – but the Giro showed what he can do.

Now, the challenge for Bouhanni is to prove he can do it in front of an expectant French public too.

Tour de France stage wins: none

Wins in 2017: four

Points classification 2016: N/A

John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo)

While Trek-Segafredo have built their team around Alberto Contador’s GC ambitions, John Degenkolb – with support from Fabio Felline – will be on the hunt for stage wins.

Part of Marcel Kittel’s supporting cast in 2013 and 2014, Degenkolb is still looking for stage success of his own at the Tour, after a couple of near misses in 2015.

John Degenkolb proved his penchant for difficult days by winning stage three of the Dubai Tour (pic: ANSA/RCS Sport)

Last time out, Degenkolb was still in the process of recovering from the training camp crash, where a car driving on the wrong side of the road hit the German and several team-mates.

But the 28-year-old returns to the Tour this year with his new team, with the target of a maiden stage win.

He has ten of them at the Vuelta a Espana, and a points classification title, but now is the time to show what he can do at the Tour de France too.

Tour de France stage wins: none

Wins in 2017: one

Points classification 2016: 32nd

Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo)

Dylan Groenewegen talked a great game ahead of his debut Tour de France last year, claiming he is as fast as the WorldTour’s biggest sprinters, but failed to back that up on the road.

Another year old, and another year wiser, however, Groenewegen can now start to deliver on his undoubted potential.

2017 Tour de Yorkshire - Bridlington - Scarborough, Dylan Groenewegen, sprint finish, Caleb Ewan, pic - Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

He was pipped to the post at the Dutch nationals, losing his red, white and blue jersey, but he does have five wins to his name this season.

And if the 24-year-old can kickstart his Tour de France tally, it could be the start of a very fruitful period for the LottoNL-Jumbo man.

Tour de France stage wins: none

Wins in 2017: five

Points classification 2016: 33rd