Tour de France 2011: Green jersey competition thrown wide open by intermediate sprint changes
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tour de France 2011: Green jersey competition thrown wide open by intermediate sprint changes

by Ben Atkins at 8:29 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Does new point structure mean advantage Thor Hushovd?

alessandro petacchiOne of the changes made for the 2011 Tour de France that could make a real difference to the destination of one of the jerseys is a new system of points to be awarded at intermediate sprints. In a departure from the usual practice there will be only one per stage, but the first rider across the line will be awarded a massive 20 points, with a descending scale of points awarded right down to 15th place.

Not only will this reward those sprinting for the mid-stage points more than ever before, but it will meant that there will still be major points available even after a breakaway has taken the top prizes; this, the Tour organisers hope, will mean that the sprinters will be involved mid-stage far more often. This should hand more of the initiative to combative riders like Thor Hushovd, who are willing to fight for prizes along the way.

It also means those like 2010 jersey winner Alessandro Petacchi and runner-up Mark Cavendish, who rely on their pure speed to take stage wins, will have to change the way they race if they are to challenge for green.

In previous years there were generally two intermediate sprints per stage, awarding 6, 4 and 2 points to the first three riders across the line. Were the peloton all together as they crossed the line there would be an opportunity for the jersey contenders to take a few points from each other; if there was a group of three or more riders up the road though, they could sit in the peloton and relax.

With the new points structure this will all have to change.

In 2010 the first time one of the riders battling for the green jersey was to take any points at all in an intermediate sprint was when Hushovd put himself in the breakaway group on stage 9. The big Norwegian dropped back into the peloton soon after winning the sprint in Cluses after 25.5km, leaving the rest of the group to take the next sprint 110km later on.

The next day, on the stage from Chambéry to Gap, the sprinters went head to head on the road for the first and only time in the race as Petacchi beat Hushovd and Robbie McEwen to the points after just 19.5km. Once again though, the second sprint of the day was left to the breakaway, and the same pattern was to follow for the remainder of the race. Hushovd got himself into the breakaway once again on stage 12, marked by Petacchi’s teammate Grega Bole, and picked up some more points. The intermediate sprints of the race were largely irrelevant though, almost entirely swallowed up by different riders every day.

The new points structure will mean that even after a breakaway group of 14 riders has passed by there will still be a reason for the sprinters to come forward.

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