Tour de France green jersey competition analysis: Why Sagan’s rivals should be very worried
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Saturday, July 06, 2013

Tour de France green jersey competition analysis: Why Sagan’s rivals should be very worried

by Shane Stokes at 7:48 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Slovakian has biggest points advantage at this point of the race in over a decade

Peter SaganThe first week of the Tour de France is yet to conclude, there are still fourteen stages to be completed, but Andre Greipel, Alexander Kristoff, Marcel Kittel and other green jersey contenders have every right to feel concerned at how the points classification has played out.

An impressive display by Peter Sagan and his Cannondale team yesterday saw the squad accelerate on the Col de la Croix de Mounis and blow away his main rivals for the Maillot Vert.

Sagan is a far more versatile rider than the pure sprinters and was able to remain with his team as they set a scorching pace on that climb and afterwards. Despite hard chasing behind, his rivals were unable to get back to the front and Sagan collected an impressive 65 points by winning the intermediate sprint and the finish.

The effects were profound on the points classification. Yesterday evening, just seven days into the Tour, Sagan had amassed a 94 point lead over Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) and 125 over Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma Quick Step).

While he has clocked up just one stage win this year, compared to three by this point twelve months ago, his advantage is still far greater than anything seen in the past decade.

Looking at the races which took place over that time, his points superiority is obvious.

In 2003, Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) was 26 points ahead of Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com) at the end of day seven. In 2004, Stuart O’Grady (Cofidis) was two points ahead of eventual winner Robbie McEwen (Lotto Domo) by the same point, then twelve months later Tom Boonen (Quick Step) had an eleven point lead over the rider who would wear green in Paris, Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole).

The following year, McEwen (Davitamon Lotto) was on course to his third Maillot Vert and was ten points ahead of Boonen by the seventh day of racing. The Belgian was in the driving seat in 2007, holding an eleven point lead over Erik Zabel (Team Milram), and would also hold it in Paris; in 2008, Kim Kirchen (Team Columbia) had the third-biggest advantage in the period we are considering, having opened a twenty eight point advantage over the ultimate winner Oscar Freire (Rabobank).

Mark Cavendish was a slender one point ahead of Hushovd the following year, and dropped behind him by the end of the race. The Norwegian was four points ahead of eventual winner Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre Farnese Vini) in 2010. In 2011, Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Movistar) had an eleven point gap over Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma Lotto).

That year marked a change in the way intermediate sprints were conducted, with the previous scattering of primes during stages being replaced by a single gallop handing twenty points to the winner and seventeen to the second-placed rider. The finishing points also increased, with the first rider home getting 45 points and the next 35. While this has changed the distribution of points – for example, in 2010, the stage winner received five points more than the runner up, rather than ten – Sagan’s advantage now apes the 31 point lead he had over Matt Goss twelve months ago.

Given that his advantage then was after netting three stage wins, his rivals should – and will – be concerned by the massive lead he now has.

With a lead three times greater than the previous biggest advantage seen since 2003, his rivals have an awful lot of work to do to get back on track.

For now, Sagan is taking nothing for granted. “Today was a day that was more than positive, even I did not expect so many points,” he said after the stage. “The Tour de France, however, is unpredictable, every day there are risks and falls. We have come a third of the race and it is not certain that it can win.”

His caution is well advised; he knows that a crash can change things in an instant. However providing he steers clear of trouble, it will take Greipel a long time to eat into his 94 point advantage. Ditto for Cavendish, who is a further eleven points adrift.

They and the other contenders will look forward to next week, where there are three or possibly four opportunities for bunch sprints. All bar next Saturday’s stage are very flat, while the latter is lumpy enough to possibly pose more problems for the pure sprinters.

The issue is that Sagan is close to them in terms of sheer finishing speed – and has beaten Cavendish, Greipel and the others in flat sprints in the past – and far superior on tougher terrain. The final week of the race may be too mountainous for the Slovakian to think about notching up stage wins, aside from Paris, but he will have prime opportunity to collect more points in the intermediate sprints when the other fastmen have been dropped.

As stated, it’s early days yet. But given his advantage, the likelihood looks very strong that he will notch up his second consecutive green jersey this year.

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Biggest points jersey advantages amassed by day seven since 2003:

2013: Peter Sagan – 94 points ahead of Andre Greipel
2013: Peter Sagan – 31 points ahead of Andre Greipel
2008: Kim Kirchen – 28 points ahead of Oscar Freire
2003: Alessandro Petacchi – 26 points ahead of Baden Cooke


Day seven totals:

2013:


1, Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling) 224 pts
2, André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) 130
3, Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) 119
4, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) 111
5, Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky Procycling) 88
6, Marcel Kittel (Team Argos-Shimano) 87


2012:

1, Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) 209 pts
2, Matthew Harley Goss (Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team) 178
3, André Greipel (Lotto Belisol Team) 167
4, Mark Cavendish (Sky Procycling) 129
5, Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre - ISD) 109
6, Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky Procycling) 95


2011:

1, Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Movistar Team) 167 pts
2, Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 156
3, Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) 150
4, Thor Hushovd (Team Garmin-Cervelo) 130
5, Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team) 99
6, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) 98


2010:

1, Thor Hushovd (Cervelo Test Team) 118 pts
2, Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) 114
3, Robbie McEwen (Team Katusha) 105
4, Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Caisse d'Epargne) 92
5, Mark Cavendish (Team HTC - Columbia) 85
6, Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky Professional Cycling Team) 82


2009:

1, Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia - HTC) 106 pts
2, Thor Hushovd (Cervelo Test Team) 105
3, Gerald Ciolek (Team Milram) 66
4, Tyler Farrar (Garmin - Slipstream) 54
5, Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) 53
6, Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Caisse d'Epargne) 53


2008:

1, Kim Kirchen (Team Columbia) 119 pts
2, Oscar Freire Gomez (Rabobank) 91
3, Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) 90
4, Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Caisse d'Epargne) 87
5, Erik Zabel (Team Milram) 72
6, Robert Hunter (Barloworld) 66


2007:

1, Tom Boonen (Quickstep - Innergetic) 141 pts
2, Erik Zabel (Team Milram) 130
3, Oscar Freire Gomez (Rabobank) 114
4, Robert Hunter (Barloworld) 103
5, Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) 101
6, Robbie McEwen (Predictor – Lotto) 97


2006:

1, Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) 157 pts
2, Tom Boonen (Quick-Step-Innergetic) 147
3, Oscar Freire (Rabobank) 135
4, Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital) 116
5, Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) 103
6, Erik Zabel (Milram) 95


2005:

1, Tom Boonen (Quick.Step) 133 pts
2, Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) 122
3, Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) 96
4, Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone) 91
5, Robert Förster (Gerolsteiner) 75
6, Angelo Furlan (Domina Vacanze) 73


2004:

1, Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis - Le Crédit Par Téléphone) 115 pts
2, Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) 113
3, Danilo Hondo (Gerolsteiner) 111
4, Erik Zabel (T-Mobile Team) 107
5, Jean-Patrick Nazon (AG2R Prévoyance) 101
6, Jaan Kirsipuu (AG2R Prévoyance) 89


2003:

1, Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) 144 pts
2, Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com) 118
3, Robbie McEwen (Lotto Domo) 110
4, Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) 100
5, Erik Zabel (Team Telekom) 98
6, Stuart O'grady (Credit Agricole) 91


* note – several of the Tours listed above included prologues or opening day time trials. This will skew the results slightly, in terms of the number of flat stages that sprinters were able to chase the win, but Sagan’s dominance after seven days of racing remains clear.

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