The battle for the yellow jersey is of course, the most famous part of the Tour de France but the sport has arguably never had so much sprinting talent and if there’s one ferocious aspect of the Tour not to miss, it’s the battle for the Green Jersey.
For those who are wondering, the green jersey is a points competition – it rewards consistency overall but in a different fashion to the battle for yellow as it does not matter how much time one gains or losses over the three weeks, but more how highly one can finish on each stage – and some count more than others.
The Tour has the best sprint fields of each of the three Grand Tours, and as such the competition is geared towards speed. This means that there are different types of stages for the competitions – the once to focus on is the ‘flat stages’ category’, which offers 0-30-20-18-16-14-12-10-8-7-6-5-4-3 and 2 points for the first 15 riders across the line, along with intermediate sprint points (on every stage, with a points system of 20-17-15-13-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 points).
The competition has been dominated by Peter Sagan in recent years, although he was eliminated early last season thanks to a big crash which he as judged to have caused, taking out Mark Cavendish. Marcel Kittel would go onto take five stage wins, but he had to withdraw after a crash on stage 17, meaning that Michael Matthews – who had cut the lead down to just nine points in a tit for tat battle.
That emphasises just how quickly things can change and or that reason there is no appeal in taking the 1/2 on Sagan. He has dominated the competition with his amazing consistency over the years, but you will get a better price on him for individual stages, namely stage 5’s rolling run to Wimpert and the cobbled stage (nine) to boot, not to forget the danger of injury, illness, or disqualification.
Quick-Step dominated with Kittel last year and this time around Fernando Gaviria can make his mark on his first appearance. A four-time stage winner at the Giro last year, he has focused his season at the Tour this time around, he missed the Classics thanks to fracturing his hand in a crash but has returned in great style.
His hat trick of wins at the Tour of California was extremely impressive given that he beat Sagan on flat finishes in all three of those wins and he got the better of the World Champion twice in the Tour de Suisse too. Their fights should be extremely close, so the strength of Quick-Step will be crucial. And Maximiliano Richeze, the difference in so many sprint wins, has already partner well with him so far this season.
He’s sure to go well, although he’s got plenty of market admirers at just 7/2 with Paddy Power and might be a better bet for a stage win or two. The best strategy might be to have an each/way bet on one of the under the radar sprinters who have shown the speed to compete with the front two in the market - check out bet365 for that.
Arnaud Demare of FDJ only made it through to nine stages last year but he finished second twice and took the win on that fateful day in Vittel when Sagan was disqualified. He has had a lighter prep this season than last year – when he took the points jersey at the Criterium Du Dauphine – but he managed to take plenty from his outing at the Tour du Suisse with nine days in the legs and a fine win to end the week.
On the flattest day of the race, he managed to beat Fernando Gaviria, Alexander Kristoff and Peter Sagan in a sprint finish and if he can utilise that speed once again he’ll be a threat to all here, something to keep in mind for your strategy for the Tour. Sixth in Paris-Roubaix in 2017, he can also be a contender for the cobbled stage too.
The absence of team-mate Thibaut Pinot from this race means he is now the main man and that is reflect in the line-up with Jacopo Guarnieri, Olivier Le Gac, Ramon Sinkeldam and Tobias Ludvigsson all present. A brutal stage nine saw him finish outside of the time cut and that is a worry again, but he could end up with a big each/way chance.
Dylan Groenewegen, who took the win on the Champs Elysées last year, is another big contender whilst Marcel Kittel has lost all form and confidence since his move to Katusha. A fit Mark Cavendish would be interesting, but he is one to watch on the opening weekend of what will be a terrific competition.