Green jersey contenders in 2014
Last year, I named just three contenders for the green jersey – awarded to the winner of the points competition. Peter Sagan, Mark Cavendish and André Greipel promptly finished first, second and third respectively. This year there’s a bit more uncertainty and I’m going to give you six names.
The first three are out-and-out sprinters. They will be looking to pick up maximum points by winning the flat stages. The next three can be thought of as either sprinters who can climb or all-round riders who can sprint. They will be happier with minor placings on the flat stages, knowing that they will be able to score additional points on hillier days. At this point, it’s worth noting that hilly stages offer only around two-thirds of the points of flat days.
Anyway, the riders.
Might as well list him first. This is a British website and so I make no apologies for supporting him. Tetchy and combative when he’s lost, Cavendish is also gushing and appreciative of his team when he’s won. He wasn’t the best sprinter last year – Marcel Kittel was – but he could argue a degree of fatigue from having raced the Giro d’Italia. This year, there are no excuses. Already one of the all-time great sprinters, he’ll want to show why this is the case.
His muscular physique has been built specifically to support his towering haircut, but a byproduct is that he’s really good at sprinting. Kittel would struggle to look more German if he tried and would be the perfect nemesis if it weren’t for the fact that he seems to be a spectacularly nice bloke with a smile as broad as the Alps. Kittel raced two road stages in this year’s Giro d’Italia and won them both before having to abandon the race through illness even before it had reached Italy. They were no ordinary wins either. The second, in particular, demanded that he make up several bike lengths on other sprinters before besting them. Last year, he was the best sprinter in the Tour.
I’m not sure there’s a more powerful rider than Greipel. If only his massive basking shark mouth didn’t function as a giant air brake. Greipel is capable of beating Kittel and Cavendish from time to time, but I’d have him down as third best of the out-and-out sprinters, although he can climb surprisingly well and might find himself in the mix one day when the other two aren’t.
David Millar has been a professional cyclist for 18 years. When he was asked the greatest cyclist he had ridden against on the Telegraph’s cycling podcast recently, he named Peter Sagan. Millar describes the Slovak’s behaviour on the run-in to the finish as ‘bonkers’. Apparently Sagan just smashes other riders aside and hops over things with no regard for his own wellbeing.
“It’s like a new breed. It’s like, what the hell are you?”
When Sagan rides the Tour de France, he wins the green jersey. He isn’t really a match for the three above on flat days, but he’s usually just behind them, picking up points, before claiming the lead on a tougher day.
Matthews can target similar stages to Sagan, albeit in a far less brutal manner. He sprints well, but again, his niche is sprinting when there are no sprinters. He won two stages of last year’s Vuelta and one in this year’s Giro and could accumulate a lot of points by consistently placing well.
Update: Matthews has been withdrawn from the race due to injury.
John Degenkolb’s moustache
The problem for John Degenkolb’s moustache is that he’s in the same team as Marcel Kittel and so will probably be asked to sacrifice his chances on the flat days. However, if something should happen to Kittel, Degenkolb could be a legitimate contender for the green jersey with his ability to mix it with Sagan and Matthews on hilly stages. Degenkolb won Gent-Wevelgem and the Paris-Nice points competition this year and in 2012 won no fewer than five stages of the Vuelta. However, because of the team situation, he’s probably sixth favourite of the six riders I’ve named.